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Family Drama—The Biggest Threat to Your Inheritance

by | Sep 12, 2018 | Estate Planning & Preservation

Coauthored by Kristine M. Scott, Estate Planning Associate

When a parent or other family member dies, his or her relatives receive their inheritance from the deceased—or at least that’s what most people think happens.

Unfortunately, family drama stands to be the number one threat to the concept of inheritance. While we see this most when vast intrafamily wealth is being transferred, we have seen fights erupt over the most mundane items, including Tupperware.

Family conflict not only endangers the amounts which beneficiaries receive, but it may also frustrate the deceased’s estate planning—that is, beneficiaries actually receiving what the deceased intended them to receive.

Why does family conflict stand to throw a monkey wrench into your estate plan? Generally, estate planning litigation revolves around three problems:

  • beneficiaries don’t receive as much as they thought they would (or should);
  • Mom and/or Dad didn’t tell their kid that their sibling was receiving more than them because of that one Christmas Eve argument; or
  • longstanding sibling rivalry (e.g., one child thinks Mom and Dad favored sister over him).

How to Prevent Family Drama After You Pass

Does this ring a bell? Or sound like something that may happen after you pass away?

Fortunately, communication may help prevent all of the above. Having your intended beneficiaries participate in your estate planning is one way to avoid litigation down the road.

If you make it clear to your kids that their sibling is receiving more than them because he stepped in and managed everything for you in your old age, chances are that, when the time comes, your son (or daughter) will understand (or at least tolerate the situation).

If you’re not willing to bring them into the picture before your death, at least write a personal letter to those who are affected and give it to your attorney to have delivered after your death.

Cluing your children or other beneficiaries in on your estate plan also helps to prevent the possibility of having your estate plan frustrated. How’s this? Disgruntled beneficiaries are notorious for filing lawsuits whereby they contest the validity of your wishes.

The moral of this story is that, not only should you plan ahead, but you need to make sure your loved ones know what to expect. That way you can ensure that your estate will be distributed according to your wishes.

If you want to prevent any familial squabbles down the line, give us a call at 904-807-2183. We can discuss the best way to prevent your loved ones from bickering after your death.


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