The time after the loss of a loved one is emotional and stressful. Families are grieving the loss while also dealing with funeral arrangements and estate plans. While careful trust and estate planning can mitigate many common disputes that occur, there are still some pitfalls that cause families to fight over the deceased’s will. Below are some situations that sometimes lead to conflict with estate plans—along with ways to resolve the situations themselves.
Disagreements Among Siblings
While estate plans often provide clear and concise instructions for loved ones, this is not always the case. Parents with multiple children will sometimes include provisions in their will requiring the siblings to make decisions together—rather than detailing the wishes themselves. Although in some respects this may seem like a good idea—having children come together after the loss of a parent—these provisions often lead to discontent and more arguments. Children will fight about the aspects of the will: either about what assets they would like to receive or disagree what they are each entitled to.
Other estate plans appoint one child to serve as the executor—the individual who executes the wishes within the will. While a child may know the parent better than anyone else, this can also lead to problems amongst siblings. The child not appointed as executor may feel excluded, wondering why they were not chosen. This can lead to future problems and arguments amongst siblings—the exact opposite of the parent’s intention.
A possible solution to these problems is to appoint a neutral decision-maker as executor of the estate plan. This individual, with no emotional attachment to the family, will make the decisions solely according to the deceased’s wishes and not take family dynamics into account. Additionally, provisions requiring agreement amongst beneficiaries should be strongly discouraged. Instead, the estate plan drafter should provide clear instructions for their assets and other intentions. This will prevent sibling disagreements from escalating.
If you are electing an adult child to be your executor, as many Houstonians do, McCulloch & Miller works to provide guidance for the family as well, subject to the approval of the clients. Family harmony meetings can certainly iron out any confusion before the need to probate a will.
Surprises and Disinheritances
While individuals drafting their estate plan can rationalize decisions within the document—such as leaving an asset to one loved one over another—it may lead to conflict if the decision is not explained to the loved ones themselves. Because of this, people should explain their estate planning choices to their beneficiaries and estate planning professionals before their passing. This allows loved ones to discuss the estate plan, have fewer hurt feelings after a person’s death, and often reduces the amount of lawsuits surrounding estate planning.
Because there are many unanticipated issues that can arise with an estate plan, individuals going through the estate plan process should contact an experienced attorney.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney
If you or a loved one wants to resolve estate planning issues before they even begin, contact the Houston estate planning attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC. With decades of experience helping Texans, our talented and dedicated attorneys will help to resolve any estate planning issues you may have. We work with clients to begin the estate planning process along with updating existing plans to ensure they avoid common pitfalls. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today, give us a call at 713-333-8900.