Comprehensive estate planning can be a confusing process. It can be even more confusing with larger estates or with multiple children. Parents want to ensure that their estate plan provides for their children’s financial security, but in circumstances where children may be in different financial situations or a variety of characteristics may impact how parents elect to distribute their assets estate planning is an important part of avoiding a fight over the estate plan down the line. The following tips, adapted from a recent article from Forbes about circumstances that often combine to lead to fights over estate plans, can help you prepare your estate plan in a way that avoids fighting over it among your heirs. In preparing your estate plan cautiously and planning to avoid potential fights between heirs, you can ensure that more of your assets are preserved for your heirs and that their relationships do not have to face the test of a legal challenge to your estate plan.
Include a No Contest Clause
One of the most direct ways of avoiding potential fights over your ultimate decision in how you wish to distribute your assets to your heirs is no work with your estate planning attorney to include a “no contest” provision in your Last Will and Testament. Doing so allows you to notify heirs that anyone that chooses to contest the Will stands to inherit nothing should they try to contest the validity of the Will through legal channels and lose. The mere existence of this type of clause can discourage individuals from fighting over the provisions of your estate plan.
Inform Your Heirs
Death and related topics can make for very unpleasant conversations. However, just as it is important to express your wishes regarding things like funeral arrangements and such, it is important to let your heirs know what you have planned and why. Discuss your estate plan with your heirs so that they understand your intentions behind the decisions you make regarding your estate plan. If one child will receive more than another, explain the reasons for this to your children. Make sure to explain your intentions and the reasons behind them while you still have the capacity to do so.
Request a Family Meeting
If you have concerns over how your estate planning decisions will be viewed by your heirs, it may be helpful to request a family meeting with your heirs where your estate planning attorney can be present. Ask your estate planning attorney to explain that there are no legal restrictions on how you choose to distribute your assets, regardless of whether or not distribution is equal. You may also want your estate planning attorney to explain the existence of the “no contest” clause and the potential consequences of violating it. Having this type of meeting, and recording it if possible, can help preserve a record of who said what to whom as well as what your intentions are in making certain determinations.