How Do I Prevent Arguments About My Estate?

Many people try to prevent a family controversy by avoiding the subjects of death and estate plans entirely during their lives, but this can cause confusion, resentment, and arguments. Having discussions about your estate plan can help you enjoy your golden years and rest easy that your end-of-life and estate wishes will be honored.

Let Your Family Know Your Wishes

Talking to your family about your wishes has an obvious, practical component: to clarify what you want. Maybe they don’t know that you would like to be interred next to great-uncle Harold in the family plot or that you’d like some of your ashes scattered off the coast of Italy, where you met your husband. If you’d like to be an anatomical donor, it’s important to talk to your family about the importance of that for you and any plans you’ve made related to such a donation. Talking to your family about these wishes, as well as your wishes regarding life support and medical intervention, can help them respect and comply with your preferences rather than having to make difficult decisions during an emotional time while unsure of what you would have wanted.

Discussion Can Be Beneficial

Having discussions about the disposition of your estate is practical, too. If you are planning to set up trusts for charities, grandchildren or other young family members, or other beneficiaries, talking with your family members can help everyone plan appropriately. A college trust fund for your grandchild, for example, can affect how his parents save and plan for his education and their own retirement. Discussing your plans to set up a charitable trust could give your family the opportunity to become more familiar and involved with an organization that they may not realize you hold dear—rather than being surprised and potentially hurt by your estate disposition. Being open about your plans for your estate can also allow you to structure the transfer of larger assets, like family vacation homes, vehicles, etc., to minimize tax losses for all parties. Finally, talking about your own retirement and estate planning can empower your family to be better advocates for you if your health and financial acumen decline as you age.

Resolve Disputes in Advance

Being open about your estate planning allows you to resolve potential disputes that could grow into exponentially larger future disagreements. Talking with your children and grandchildren about who will get the family’s vintage china can allow you to understand what is meaningful to whom and come to decisions that take everyone’s feelings into account. For instance, let’s say you intend to leave your carved secretary desk to your eldest daughter because you feel it would go nicely with the rest of her furniture. Unbeknownst to you, your grandchild has very fond memories of playing hide-and-seek in the piece as a small child when visiting, and it would mean the world to her to have it. You may never have considered leaving it to her because she doesn’t even have a home of her own yet, but talking about this in advance can allow you both to share a sentimental moment as well as plan most appropriately for the future. Talking about these things can prevent hurt feelings and allow you to work out any difficulties or disagreements in advance.

Estate Planning Documentation

It’s essential that you create the legal documents you need to make your wishes known and ensure they are carried out, and it’s recommended that you discuss them with your family in advance. A living will and/or a durable healthcare power of attorney (POA) are documents that ensure that your designated representative understands their responsibilities and respects your decisions with regard to your medical care. In your will, you will designate a personal representative/executor who is both willing and able to carry out your wishes and handle the distribution of your estate. You will also need professional advice to properly set up any trusts.

If it’s hard for you to talk with your family about these sensitive issues, or if you are unable to resolve disputes, think about bringing in a neutral third party to mediate your discussions or act as an advisor. This could be a therapist, religious advisor, lawyer, or friend whom you trust and respect.

The experienced elder care attorneys at The Elder Care Firm can help you evaluate your goals and implement financial and legal plans to ensure that your final wishes are respected and protected. We’d love to help you with everything you need, including a life care plan that maximizes and preserves your assets so you have the resources you need to live together through your golden years with minimal financial stress. Come to one of our free monthly seminars to learn more and get started now!

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