Every family experiences some form of conflict. However, for some families, conflict is a constant state of being. Siblings may always be at odds with one another. An uncle may be the “black sheep” of the family. Heated disagreements at a family gathering are one thing. A dispute over a loved ones’ estate is something else entirely.
Estate and probate disputes can strain family ties to their breaking point. However, there are steps you can take when putting together your estate plan that can help reduce the chance of family conflict after you’re gone.
State your wishes clearly
So much probate and estate litigation concerns ambiguity in a person’s will. You should make your wishes clear. Ensure that there is no potential uncertainty for what you would like to happen. It’s important that you name a person you trust to serve as your estate’s personal representative.
It’s wise to revisit your estate plan every few years. Relationships between family members and your friends can change over time. You should make any necessary updates to reflect your current social and familial situation. If there’s someone in your family who often acts as a sort of peacemaker, you may wish to tell them why you’ve set up your estate plan the way you did. This can help that person provide some context should a dispute between family members arise.
Consider adding a no-contest clause
A no-contest clause can prevent people from making legal challenges to your estate plan. This type of clause deserves special consideration if you believe some beneficiaries are likely to be unhappy with their shares of the estate. Bear in mind that a no-contest clause is not an ironclad guarantee that will shield your estate from legal disputes. The law does make for certain exceptions.
Discuss your plans with an outside party
It might be helpful to discuss your estate plans with an outside party. Doing so can provide you with a valuable perspective that you may not have considered. Also, remember that certain aspects of estate planning, such as naming a power of attorney, do not have to be reserved for family members. If there is someone other than a relative whom you trust to make decisions on your behalf, you can ask them to be your power of attorney.
For some families, disagreements are just an unfortunate way of life. However, you can help ensure that your estate plan isn’t yet another source of conflict. A legal professional can help explore your options for putting together a comprehensive estate plan that will minimize the risk of disputes.