Family relationships can be seriously damaged, sometimes permanently, in cases involving estate disputes and probate litigation. Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to guarantee the proceeds of your estate won’t be disputed after you’re gone. However, you can take steps to minimize the risk of litigation. A frank discussion with your family members is an excellent place to start.
Topics to address with your family members
Estate planning discussions can be difficult. Thinking about your mortality is not a particularly pleasant exercise. However, the end is something everyone has to face. Knowing that you’ve taken steps to avoid possible disputes can help put your mind at ease. Some important topics to discuss with your family include:
- Healthcare and financial wishes: Your estate plan should include a financial power of attorney and a healthcare power of attorney. These documents should make your preferences clear. However, discussing your desires with the members of your family can do away with any potential ambiguity.
- Beneficiaries: In a perfect world, all beneficiaries named in your estate plan would receive an equal piece of the pie. However, things rarely work out that way. If you intend to give a more significant portion of your estate to one of your heirs, you should inform the rest of your family members. This can be a difficult discussion to have, but making your reasons and desires known now can help avoid unpleasant surprises in the future, which can lead to litigation.
Of course, you can help minimize the risk of litigation by ensuring your estate plan is legally sound. You should discuss your plans with a skilled professional once every few years and make any necessary updates as your life changes.