Dealing with the death of a loved one is painful enough. Even though grief can bring people together, it can also drive up feelings of tension, resentment, and overall conflict within a family. Making arrangements for after one’s death can be unnerving, but it is essential to ensure civility amongst family members and to not leave any questions unanswered.
The first and foremost measure one should take is to make sure that all wishes are honestly and clearly communicated to your children, grandchildren, or other heirs. This is true especially in cases where estate shares may be unequally distributed between multiple children. Perhaps you have multiple children over a wide age range and you want to leave a larger share to the younger children. Make sure all of the children understand the fact that you’re not playing favorites, you’re simply looking to level the playing field. Or, if you plan on leaving a larger share to the older children, highlight the fact that they may be more experienced and can handle the responsibility of larger funds.
Furthermore, choosing an executor or trustee for your estate is an important and vital decision. Explain the reason why this person has been designated as the executor or trustee, as this decision can cause hurt feelings and even cause resentment. If you can’t seem to find a choice that appeases everyone, consider choosing an executor or trustee who is not part of the family in order to avoid any sense of partiality and to avoid the accusation of playing favorites.
After you communicate your wishes to your family, write them down and get them legally confirmed. Verbal and handshake agreements are still considered informal agreements and can be easily contested. Having your wishes in writing will answer any questions your surviving family may have and keep them from a “he said, she said” conflict. Again, communicate your plans with everyone that will be affected so that once everything is in writing, there will be no further discussion.
Remember, no two families are alike. By being proactive and creating a strategy that arranges for clear decisions during a difficult time, you can alleviate pain, diffuse tensions, and help facilitate the healing process for your loved ones after you pass away. If we can assist you in starting this process, simply contact our Hillsborough County probate and estate planning law firm at (813) 438-8503 to schedule a consultation.