There is so much Family Conflict that I have seen over time when dealing with client’s Estate Plans. I had planned to limit the subject to 5 Blogs, but thought it was important to add in these important thoughts for your consideration. If any of these areas relate to your personal Estate Plan, make sure that you consider them carefully and that they are properly planned for in your legal Estate Plan.
Remember the Art of War quote from Sun Tzu, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
Know your areas of concern and make sure that they are well planned for by your experienced, well-qualified, family focused Estate Planning Attorney.
Today’s Modern Family
Blended Family Issues – The poor structure of an Estate Plan can create conflict.
Anytime there is a “Blended Family”, there are great opportunities for creating conflict. Here are some considerations:
- Do you leave everything to the surviving newer spouse?
- Do you leave part of the assets to the spouse and part to the adult children?
- Do you provide income to the spouse while they are alive?
- What if the surviving spouse is much younger than the spouse who has adult children?
- What if there is an unequal division between the adult children?
- What if they are “his children” and “her children”?
Simple Estate Planning does not work for a non-simple life. When people are involved, rarely is the situation or life simple.
If you use a “Simple Will” you can disinherit your children. Under a “Simple Will” you leave everything to your newer spouse and if they pre-decease you, to your children. When you die all your assets goes to your newer spouse. When they die everything goes to their children. You just disinherited your children.
Bequests to in-laws or your adult children’s spouse can be problematic. I have had clients that wanted to leave assets to their daughter-in-law after their son died, saying that, “she is just like our child.” I said “Are you sure you want to do this?” They said “Oh yeah, she is just like our daughter.” Within a year, the young lady re-married and faded out of the relationship with my clients. We had to modify their Estate Plan.
Unnecessary delays that create conflict
Probate Court delays
If you have Living Trusts and you have not retitled your assets into the Living Trust, you are forcing your assets through the delay, publicity and expense of Probate Court, which is unnecessary. If you title the assets into the name of your Living Trust, you can avoid having your beneficiaries go through all of the difficulties of Probate Court.
Property in different states
If you have land in several states, you can end up in different Probate Courts in different states. If you retitle your assets into the name of your Living Trust, your Estate will avoid Probate Court.
If the Probate Lawyer is adversarial, it can be difficult for the family. We had one case where a Georgia Lawyer had my client’s inherited farm re-evaluated to increase the tax value, so that he could raise his Probate Fee, which was based on a percentage of the value of the assets. You want to make sure that you have a lawyer who is on your side.
Is ill will so fierce that litigation is likely to strike? If so you really need to plan for that in the Estate Plan.
Trusts vs. Wills
Remember if you have a Will based Estate Plan that it is easier to attack in a Lawsuit. In a Will Caveat Lawsuit all the attacking attorneys may be paid out of your Estate assets. It also means that a jury may vote with whom they like most among your family members, as opposed to what the design of your Estate Plan is.
Trusts, including Living Trust, aka Revocable Living Trusts, are much harder to attack in litigation and also the attacking parties will likely have to pay their own attorney’s fees. A Trust is much harder to break.
If your family dynamics fit some of the areas that we have reviewed, plan carefully for them in you legal Estate Plan. If they do not apply and your family gets along well, consider yourself blessed. I hope these series of blogs on Family Conflict in Estate Planning has been helpful. If you missed them, here is a recap:
Part 5 – Anticipate Conflict – Get ready to rumble!
At the Law Firm of Steven Andrew Jackson, Attorney and Counsellor at Law, we have helped hundreds of families protect themselves and their loved ones, avoid Estate Taxes and Probate Costs, and keep their Estate Plans current with the law through The Customized Protective Estate Planning Solution™.