Dodging the Family Feud over Your Estate


Unfortunately, estate planning can cause family feuds over inheritance, often leading to litigation that can become lengthy and costly with no clear winner. From our experience, family litigation occurs not from a lack of trying to solve the issue, but from a lack of planning.

Planning for your estate translates to planning for your family. Or is it planning for your family?

Well, it really means both – “planning for your family” (i.e., ensuring your family’s well-being financially) and, more subtly “planning for your family” (i.e., ensuring your family’s well-being relationally).

You see, family infighting is a very real and present danger, even within families that are otherwise loving and respectful. Death and the resulting inheritance are fraught with emotional danger. How do you plan to avoid the family feud?

Families are simply too complex to offer any silver bullet suggestions (each family is the sum total of each family member’s hopes, dreams, anxieties, and often petty obsessions).  However, estate planning attorneys have ways to prevent estate litigation.

Each attorney may have his or her own choice list of tactics. However, published a list worth consideration in an article titled “Avoiding Family Conflicts During Estate Planning.

The original article is worth reading, but here is the list of bullet points in summary:

  • Overcome the Concept of Fairness
  • Transfer Assets Based on a Natural Flow
  • Protect Family Assets
  • Make Major Decisions with Every Family Member in the Room
  • ·         Do Not Wait for the Original Founder of the Family Business, or a Parent, to Pass Away
  • ·         Evaluate What You Can and Can’t Afford to Transfer
  • ·         Treat Estate Planning as an Ongoing Process
  • ·         Pick the Right Professional Advisor

It’s worth reading through the list and a few more like it.

What does your family need and how will you plan “for your family” to head off squabbles, infighting, or outright litigation?

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Reference: (May 15, 2013) “Avoiding Family Conflicts During Estate Planning