Estate planning can be an exhaustive and stressful process, especially where family members are concerned. You want to make sure that your estate plan is fair and equitable for everyone involved. You also want to make sure to eliminate any issues that could lead to family disputes.
Unfortunately, no amount of planning will guarantee that your adult children won't squabble about the estate after you're gone. However, you can take steps to reduce the likelihood of those squabbles. Here are five things you can do to encourage a squabble-free transfer of assets after your passing.
1. Choose Your Executor Carefully
When you set out to plan your estate, you need to choose the executor carefully, especially if you want to avoid family squabbles. The wrong executor could make things worse for everyone involved. Regardless of whom you choose as the executor of your estate, take the time to explain that choice to your family.
When you explain your choice clearly, you allow your family members to understand the thought process behind your decision. One word of advice though — to reduce the risk of squabbles and animosity, try to choose an executor who will communicate openly and honestly with your family.
2. Consider Equal Versus Fair
When your division of assets, you want to consider equal versus fair. With an equal division of assets, all property is divided evenly between all beneficiaries. That way, no one receives more or less of your estate. While this option may seem like the easiest option, it might not be the best one, especially where special circumstances exist.
For instance, you may have a family member who requires specialized medical care. Or, you may have land that can't be divided evenly. If you have extenuating circumstances, you may want to consider a fair distribution of your assets, rather than an equal distribution.
3. Ensure Open Communication
When you sit down to plan your estate, ensure open communication with all your family members. This step is particularly important if you have adult children who will benefit from your estate. Family members need to feel that they're involved in the process.
As you make plans that regard your estate, talk to your family about those decisions, especially as they relate to the division of your property. If your adult children know what your plans are in advance, they'll be less likely to squabble once you've passed.
4. Consider Gifting Prior to Passing
When a loved one passes away, emotions often get in the way sound decision-making. Unfortunately, those emotions often lead to hurt feelings and family squabbles. This is particularly true where matters of the final estate are concerned. One way to take the emotions out of the distribution of assets is to gift prior to your passing.
This step is beneficial when your estate contains physical items that you plan to pass to your loved ones. Distribute family heirlooms and personal belongings prior to your passing. That way, you can explain the importance of each item and your loved ones can enjoy those treasured items before you pass away.
5. Update Your Estate Plans From Time to Time
When you have your estate plan in place, remember that you'll need to provide updates from time to time. An updated estate plan will help avoid problems once you've passed away, especially where issues such as marriages and divorces are concerned.
At least once every few years, sit down with your attorney to ensure that all information contained in your estate plan is still accurate. If major life changes occur, such as another child is added to the family, change your estate plan as soon as possible.
Don't take chances with your estate. The information provided above will help you avoid potential fights and squabbles over your estate once you pass away. For assistance with your estate plans, contact us at the Law Office of Paula D. Perez. We're here to answer any questions you may have regarding the process.