Nobody likes to think that their heirs will go at each other tooth and nail after the will is read — but it happens. Sometimes, there are simmering resentments between family members that come to the surface after a death. Other times, someone just really believes that the deceased was mislead or his or her will was essentially corrupted by one person’s undue influence.
If you want to avoid all the unpleasantness of a conflict over your estate, here are some steps to take:
1. Update your will
A will is never something that you should execute and forget. Update it regularly. That way, it will reflect your changing relationships over time. If you were estranged from an heir years ago, an outdated will might be subject to challenge once you’ve made up. Similarly, if you cut off an heir who was draining you dry, and outdated will could entitle him or her to more than is just.
2. Get a prenup if you remarry.
When the people remarry in their later years, it often creates estate conflicts between a surviving spouse and the adult children of a prior spouse. A prenuptial agreement can be an essential part of an estate plan and help keep what should go to your biological heirs “in the family,” instead of eventually ending up in the estate of your current spouse.
3. Use trusts when possible
Get advice on how to put your money in a trust so that your heirs avoid the confusion and expense of probate. A trust also takes a lot of ambiguity out of an estate — it clearly identifies your desires by requiring those extra steps to fund it.
4. Address your personal items
Don’t forget to address items that are personal or sentimental in nature like wedding rings, watches, golf clubs, coin collections and other items. While these may or may not have monetary value, their emotional significance can start a firestorm of accusations and fights between your heirs. Never assume that they’ll sort out what to do with your things on your own. The more detailed a list you leave, the better it is for your heirs.
Source: www.aaii.com, “18 Recommendations for Minimizing Inheritance Conflict,” accessed Feb. 27, 2018