How Avoid a Family Fight with your Estate plan

My last article I discussed how the “no contest” provisions could be inserted in a Last Will and Testament to limit an heir’s ability to contest a document without risking a loss, or reduction of an inheritance.  A few more follow-up tips when I am meeting with clients to avoid rancor and resentment when a child or family member is dealing with the grief and loss of a loved one.

**Name the right Personal Representative/Executor/Trustee. The named person or institution to serve should have the skills and the ethical qualifications to handle the responsibilities and obligations.  Many clients just name an eldest child even though this person may not be the best choice; either they do not get along with the other heirs or do not have the skills and abilities to handle this fiduciary obligation.  It may be best to name a corporate fiduciary, such as a trust company, if you do not have the right person in your circle to handle these affairs smoothly if you pass away.

**Create a List or Memorandum of tangible personal property.  Most family squabbles deal with not “high value” items but tangible property that has a sentimental or emotional value such as trinkets or jewelry.  I advise clients to discuss this with their heirs while they are alive.  Indiana allows a person to create a Memorandum (separate list) that is referenced in your Last Will and Testament which the personal representative must follow if items exist at death to be distributed to the named heir.

**Place an inheritance in trust for a long period of time.  Clients like to put an inheritance for certain heirs with restrictions on when they get the inheritance; such as reaching age 21, ½ balance at age 25, and remainder at age 30, for example.  Sometimes clients put restriction for many more decades that can cause resentment, or have the appearance of punishment to an heir when the other heirs receive their inheritance earlier, and outright.  Also, when you name a sibling who received their inheritance, as trustee, who holds their sibling’s share in trust, this can cause much resentment, strife, and conflict.  However, many times a trust is necessary due to the young age, lack of responsibility of an heir, or because of special needs of an heir.

**Explain if heirs are treated differently.  Many times clients will leave more to a child or family member who is younger or who has less assets or success than the other heirs.  Even though a child has no right of inheritance, or to be treated equally, it is important to explain why the child or family member is being treated differently; either in person, or in the estate planning document.

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