The last thing you want to happen after you pass away is for your children and other relatives to fight over your will. You want your estate plan to bestow your legacy upon your loved ones, not cause a lawsuit or bitter feelings between family members.
Still, once you have developed your estate plan, it should be one that you are proud of and reflects your final wishes. Here is how you can keep your estate plan the way you want it while also minimizing the risk of a family fight.
- Talk to your family ahead of time. Once you have drawn up your estate plan, gather your spouse and adult children for a family meeting. Let them know the basics of your will, especially if you are planning things that will impact your kids’ financial planning, such as a college fund for the grandchildren. Do not go into great detail. Just tell them enough so there will be no surprises.
- Consider dividing the inheritance equally. Ultimately, the terms of your will are up to you. But if you choose to leave more of your estate to one child over another, there will likely be hard feelings, even if you have good reasons for doing so. Weigh whether favoring one heir over the rest is more important than family harmony.
- Don’t forget family heirlooms. Your mother’s jewelry or your grandfather’s coin collection may or may not be worth much in terms of dollars. But these and other family treasures may have a lot of sentimental value to your loved ones. Discuss this with your family and come up with a plan for distributing these items that everyone can accept.
- Specify gifts vs. loans. If you are giving money to one of your heirs now, make it clear to them if you intend the money to be a gift or a loan. If it is a loan, should they repay your estate? If so, by when? Can the loan be forgiven if the recipient does something, such as graduating college?
By talking with your family ahead of time, you can greatly reduce the chances of a will challenge later on. Your estate planning attorney can help you prepare for this discussion.