Estate Planning – 5 Tips for Avoiding Family Strife

Even the simplest situations, such as a widower with three children who wants to split assets evenly, can get complicated fast. At a highly emotional time, feelings are fragile and family members get upset — and even dispute the distribution of assets and heirlooms.

These disagreements run deep, and can take many years to heal. But a few estate planning tips can assist with proactively handling much of the potential family strife. But where should you start?

Estate Planning

Here are 5 estate planning tips to help you avoid family strife:

Communicate Openly With Family Members

You don’t need to involve family members in the actual estate planning, but once it’s complete, it’s important to loop them in. Plans for all assets, especially heirlooms, should be discussed so there aren’t any surprises.

It’s also an opportunity to explain the “why” behind your decisions. Discuss any concerns family members have, so those issues are proactively addressed.

Avoid Executor and Trustee Conflicts

The best way to avoid strife over your estate planning is to select an executor or trustee who is neutral. For example, if the executor is also a business partner, this may create a perceived conflict of interest. Instead, select somebody who is otherwise uninvolved in your affairs — someone your beneficiaries will respect and who won’t be the source of tension.

Consider Trust Protectors

An irrevocable trust is a trust that includes terms and provisions that cannot be changed by the grantor. If you are using this type of trust, consider a trust protector. This person is separate from a trustee, and his or her role is to ensure that the trust is being satisfied.

Having a trust protector offers the ability to remove or replace a trustee, and to amend a trust agreement. This is especially useful for longer trusts (those that continue for more than one generation).

Review Your Plan Frequently

After setting up your estate plan, it’s important to revisit the document annually. Sometimes circumstances change, such as with the birth of a child, a divorce or a marriage. And even if you don’t have any life changes, you may have other circumstances that need to be addressed in your plans. The cost of keeping your estate plan current is small when compared to the cost of addressing potential problems that could unfold due to your not making the necessary changes.

Resolving Disputes

As your estate plan evolves and changes, it’s important to have upfront discussions with your family members. Discuss alternative resolution options, such as mediation, to avoid litigation in the case of disagreements.

Do you need help with estate planning? Most people do. Our law firm is here to help. We handle all the complex aspects of estate planning, making the process simple for you and your family. Our comprehensive approach ensures that no important details are overlooked.

For more information, call me today at 914-437-5955.

About Author

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  • Michael LaMagna, LNHA, MPA, JD concentrates in the areas of Medicaid and Advanced Asset Protection Planning, Elder Law, Trusts and Estates, Probate and Probate Litigation, Guardianships, Health Care Regulatory Matters, Nursing Home Placement, Long Term Care Insurance, Medicare Appeals, Social Security/SSI Litigation and Special Needs Law. If you have a question for Mr. LaMagna, please call him at (914) 437-5955.