Tips for Siblings to Avoid and Resolve an Estate Planning Battle
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Any parent would like to think that, when the time comes, their children will be able to sort through our estates without disagreement or conflict, but that’s not always the case. Even in strong family units, the weeks and months that follow the death of a parent are largely determined by the will – how well it was written, whether or not it is ‘in accordance’ with any promises or expectations their children are dependent on, and how comprehensive it is.
This article looks at how the death of a parent can easily give way to old grievances between siblings – grievances that were once thought to have been put aside for good. If you add an unexpected issue with inheritance into the mix, the issue is exacerbated.
In other words, plenty of difficulties can (and do) arise between siblings who may never have expected to deal with them. As you can imagine, working to mitigate them as much as possible (and as quickly as possible) is key, so here are our tips for minimising the stress caused by a disagreement over estate planning.
Communicate with your parents before it’s too late
No one likes to talk about death, and there never seems to be a ‘right time’ to bring it up – but, given what can happen if the opportunities for these conversations are missed, it is incredibly important that we do have these conversations.
The key benefit to having these conversations is that they should eliminate the risk of any unwanted ‘surprises’ further down the line. If you and your siblings (and your parents) are all on the same page, then there are far fewer opportunities for disagreements when the time does come.
Also, make sure that items of sentimental value are not forgotten about. While it’s important to focus on the finances and the big assets, like the family home, it’s just as important that sentimental objects are ‘assigned’ to someone (and that this is all out in the open) before it is too late.
If a disagreement does seem likely, then speaking with a lawyer about a professional executor or trustee could be key
Sometimes, even if you’re all on the same page in a practical sense, there is still the potential for some significant issues to arrive further down the line. If you can sense these issues looming on the horizon, then appointing a professional – someone who occupies neutral territory, and who understands the legal framework surrounding inheritance – to execute the estate could be the best solution.
If you’re working with experienced will dispute solicitors to mitigate the problem, then no sibling has to take a more proactive role than anyone else, thus minimising the risk of disagreements.
Hear each other out
In situations like this, it can be tempting to take a ‘my way or the highway’ approach – not least of all because, to you, it feels like the path of least resistance, and the easiest way to deal with the practicalities without focusing on the grief you feel.
Ultimately, however, overriding anything your sibling has to say can be just as damaging to your relationship as a difficult will, and it’s not the ideal way to find a resolution.
Create a fair selection system
If there are items that have not been mentioned in the will, but you both want to take them home, then work out a way of fairly distributing those items. Some siblings will use a lottery-based system, while others will get a fair appraisal of the estate and work through unnamed items systematically.
Don’t give into old hierarchies. If one of you is older and has, historically, had a little more weight in disagreements, then don’t let that old system creep back in. Keep it fair.
Alternatively, consider asset liquidation. That way, you don’t need to temper financial value with sentimental value. You can both leave with the same monetary value, and no room for disagreement.
Neel Achary is the editor of Business News This Week. He has been covering all the business stories, economy, and corporate stories.