Proper planning can help you avoid estate conflict.
Some people seem to thrive off of drama.
This is evident in the plethora of reality television shows available on broadcast television and streaming services.
Although many people find drama entertaining, it is much less enjoyable when it is your story.
According to a recent The Motley Fool article titled “Where There’s A Will, There’s a Way. How You Can Avoid Conflict When Divvying Up Your Estate,” chances of conflict are higher when money is involved.
Consequently, estate plans can easily trigger feuding.
To provide the best chance of avoiding an estate battle, you should work with an experienced estate planning attorney in your state of residence.
This professional will bring knowledge of state and federal laws to bear when constructing your documents.
Your attorney will be able to help you designate the executor to administer your estate, a guardian should you have minor children who would need parenting if something happens to you and your spouse, and perhaps the trustee to distribute the inheritance to protect it for and even from your children.
A last will and testament is necessary to accomplish these goals and to distribute assets through probate.
Some assets, like certain bank accounts, insurance policies, and investment accounts, can avoid probate and pass directly to heirs through beneficiary designations.
A fully-funded revocable living trust can avoid probate, too, but provide greater “if this then that” control over potential unintended consequences.
Because life brings changes, you should review and update your estate planning documents and beneficiary designations every few years or after significant life events like divorces, marriages, or births.
Even with a perfectly designed estate plan, conflict can still exist.
Although there may be no legal grounds for an estate battle, families can still be ripped apart from hurt feelings and misunderstandings.
Can these family rifts be avoided?
It all depends on the family.
Even so, transparency and communication can reduce the likelihood of the appearance of favoritism.
By sharing your wishes and reasoning before you die, you can reduce the likelihood of rash actions being taken after your death.
Your key beneficiaries, agents, executors, trustees, and immediate family members should be aware of your estate plan and any changes you make.
When multiple people know the location of the final signed and legal estate plan, it reduces the opportunity for self-serving and sneaky actions.
It also helps the estate administration to begin and end more quickly.
This is especially helpful as the probate court typically must receive the filed last will and testament within a specified timeframe following the death of the decedent.
In Kansas, that timeframe is six months, while in Missouri, it is one year.
By working with an experienced estate planning attorney, you will be better able to minimize legal and personal conflict around your estate.
Reference: The Motley Fool (Aug. 6, 2023) “Where There’s A Will, There’s a Way. How You Can Avoid Conflict When Divvying Up Your Estate”