Even the strongest families fall apart after parents’ death because of issues on how the estate was divided. Feuds over inheritance are a painful, expensive, and time-consuming catastrophe. It transforms harmonious relationships to sibling rivalries, and your death becomes the birth of family disputes. While legal battles can result in reallocation of some properties, both parties become losers one way or another.
The only guaranteed winners are the lawyers who will take a sizable share out of your estate. Without proper estate planning, your children might be wasting your hard-earned assets on expensive probate fights and attorney fees. Here’s how you can increase the odds of keeping family harmony after your death:
Not exactly equal but fair
Unequal distribution is the main reason why some children feel resentment and decide to sue for more. While it is ideal to leave an exactly equal inheritance to every child, it is sometimes unrealistic and impossible. The Donnybrook house you leave for your eldest might not be the exact equivalent of the land that you left to your youngest child. The only way to split the inheritance equally is to make a will that all your properties, heirlooms, and possessions should be put to auction after your death. This way, all the proceeds can be equally distributed among your kids.
While it is extremely tough to split your assets equally, it is possible to divide them fairly. Each of your children has different needs and financial abilities. Maybe one of your children resigned from his job to become your full-time caregiver. And you want to give him a bigger share to compensate for the lost wages and reward him for his time and devotion.
Or maybe you have given one heir more money during your lifetime by funding his start-up business, paying for his home’s downpayment, or bailing him out from an enormous debt. Other heirs can resent that they did not get the same benefit, which can lead to litigation. In this case, you can follow an equitable guideline by noting that the money is considered an advance against their final inheritance.
If one of your heirs has disabilities, you might want to create a special needs trust to provide him with financial security. You need to leave most of your estate to the trust to cover your child’s living expenses, healthcare needs, and medical bills. The other siblings will likely understand your decision, but it is still best to inform them about your plan to prevent shock and disappointment.
No secrets and surprises
Being secretive is not always a good idea, especially when planning the distribution of your estate. Your children should be realistically prepared and can voice out their feelings or any disagreement with your decision. Hold a family meeting with all your heirs and your estate planning attorney.
While you don’t owe an explanation to anyone, it’s better to let your children know why you’re distributing your assets the way they are. You could prevent family conflict and expensive probate if you were able to set their expectations and made them understand your reasons and intentions.
Incapacity, illness, or death can knock at anyone’s door without the slightest warning. Now is never too early to talk about your final wishes and write down your will.