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Preventing family conflicts regarding estates

People may have many hopes regarding what will happen with their estate upon their death. One common hope is that the distribution of their estate will go smoothly and to their wishes. Among the things that could keep such a hope from becoming reality are family conflicts.

There are a wide range of things family disputes can arise over in connection to an estate, such as who gets what. These conflicts could complicate the probate process and deplete assets from the estate. Just how big of a problem such disputes can present is seen in a recent survey of estate planning professionals. In the survey, 44 percent of the polled professionals said that the biggest estate planning threat out there was the threat posed by family disputes.

What can individuals do to try to lower the chances of family conflicts arising about their estate? Here are some tips to consider:

  • Have a plan - It can take a lot of uncertainty away from a family when a person has his or her wishes for what will happen with his or her estate down in a clear and enforceable form. Estate plans serve this important role.
  • Make sure the plan is well-tailored - There are many estate planning options. This allows for a nearly endless amount of customization. Carefully tailoring a plan to one’s goals and circumstances, including family circumstances, could reduce the chances of the plan having confusing or unintended results that might be triggers for family conflicts. It can also be important to update a plan in connection to changed family circumstances. Estate planning attorneys can assist with forming well-tailored plans and keeping plans well-tailored.
  • Talk about the about the plan - One thing that could trigger family conflicts over an estate is a family not having accurate expectations about what a loved one’s estate plan will do. An unpleasant surprise could make a family member much more likely to be combative. So, keeping one’s estate plan secret from one’s family can pose problems. A better approach can be to be clear, open and honest with family members about how assets will be distributed under the plan.

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