“Planning before death can address many of the issues that arise after a parent dies,” Barbara Weltman observes in Investopedia. While sibling rivalry can lead to lengthy and expensive legal actions, Weltman adds, forethought by the parents – along with proper legal guidance – can often prevent those things from happening.
One avoidable source of problems, we’ve found at Geyer Law, is allowing one sibling to control the flow of income or assets to other children. Using a non-family member executor or trustee for the estate goes a long way in keeping the peace.
Debates often arise, Weltman points out, over treasured items that belonged to a parent, even if those items have little financial value. The author suggests that parents disburse those items before death, or at least put tags on them naming the desired heir.
When it comes to distributing household items, siblings might take turns choosing desired items.
“Parents usually know whether their children are likely to fight over particular items and should take action to prevent potential conflicts,” Weltman advises.
“Conflicts over inheritance have become a growing problem. Don’t assume your family is immune,” Eleanor Laise writes in Kiplinger. Adult children providing care for elderly parents may resent having to share an inheritance equally with siblings who didn’t help out, Laise admits. Blended families with children from previous marriages can also experience conflicts. Her primary piece of advice: “Start talking”, involving potential heirs in the decision-making process as the estate planning is being created.
Losing a parent can be hard enough; there’s no reason to add additional confusion and potential harm by leaving the family completely in the dark. It’s particularly important to have a frank conversation if parents intend to leave unequal bequests, advises wealthmanagement.com.
At Geyer Law, we agree. Proper estate planning, particularly when the discussions involve both generations, helps put seniors in charge of their own finances, while at the same time avoiding sibling rivalry disputes later on.
– by Jennifer Hammond, Associate Attorney at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates