Regardless of the makeup of a family, family dynamics can often be complicated. But fighting about food and what to watch on TV are simple problems compared to disputes about a loved one’s estate. These lawsuits can cost millions of dollars and tear families apart. Instead, there are steps that estate planning attorneys recommend taking in order to avoid these issues—especially during the emotionally charged times after a person has passed away. When it comes to estate planning—like with many other family disputes—communicating can go a long way toward minimizing future problems and estate lawsuits.
Communicating Estate Plan Intentions
Having ongoing conversations with loved ones about estate planning intentions is crucial. While discussing what assets a person intends to leave to others with those people may feel awkward, there can be major consequences otherwise. Lack of communication can lead to family rivalries—and even lawsuits—if a loved one feels they were unjustly excluded from the estate.
Additionally, talking with potential heirs can help to create a better estate plan overall. Loved ones can provide input and ask questions about the will—while estate planning attorneys are also helpful in this arena, talking with family members with direct knowledge of family dynamics can be a plus too. Plus, if loved ones feel they have been involved in the estate planning process, there is less of a likelihood they will feel “blindsided” by the will’s contents.
Multi-Million Dollar Family Disputes
Turkey product tycoon Bernard Matthew’s estate dispute is just one example of when intentions are not communicated to loved ones, and a dispute ensued. In this case, Matthews’ estate, worth over $55 million, left the majority of assets to his sole biological son based on the contents of his will. However, his long-term partner sued to obtain a share of the estate. Despite the will’s language, Matthews wrote a letter to his child prior to his passing—but not read until after his death—asking that his French villa be given to his long-term partner. If Matthews had communicated these wishes to his loved ones prior to his passing, the lawsuit might have been avoided. Instead, his child was left to reconcile his father’s will with a letter stating different intentions.
It is also important to note that Matthews could have escaped these problems as well if he had amended his estate plan prior to his death. This is why it is critical to regularly visit an estate planning attorney and ensure the estate plan matches the individual’s current intentions.
There can be dramatic consequences—the loss of funds and the destroying of relationships—if estate plans and intentions are not communicated to loved ones. Experienced estate planning attorneys can help avoid these issues.
Do You Need a Houston Estate Planning Attorney?
If you or a loved one is in need of a Houston estate planning attorney, contact McCulloch & Miller, PLLC. Whether you are looking to draft an estate plan or need advice about your current plan, our attorneys with decades of experience are here to help. Estate planning should not cause you extreme stress or worry, so give us a call today at 713-333-8900 to schedule a consultation.