One of the biggest fears that parents have about dying is that their estate will destroy their children’s relationships with one another. The fights that arise during estate administration could drive a wedge between your children and lead to lengthy probate litigation that reduces everyone’s inheritance.
If your children have butted heads frequently throughout the years, you may already realize that you’re two oldest sons are the ones most likely to drag your estate through probate court. On the other hand, you may recognize that the overall value of your estate could cause siblings who have historically had a good relationship to turn on one another.
How can you plan your estate so that the legacy you leave behind won’t be the destruction of the relationships your children have with each other?
Add a no-contest clause
Greed is often why people challenge existing estate plans. They think they have a chance of securing a larger portion of the estate for themselves. If you include a no-contest clause in your will or trust, someone who initiates probate litigation could lose their inheritance entirely. The threat of disinheritance can prevent people from gambling everyone’s inheritance on the chance of a bigger windfall for themselves.
Talk openly about your intentions
Do you intend to give your middle child control over the family company because they are the only one who has continued working there after graduating from college? Do you want your children to share ownership of your lake house so that they can continue to do whole-family Christmas celebrations there?
Whatever your intentions are regarding the distribution of your property, the simplest way to prevent your loved ones from getting angry about those plans and fighting one another is to be honest and open about your intentions long before your loved ones ever read your will. When family members understand your specific legacy goals, they are less likely to have a negative emotional reaction to the reading of your will and therefore less likely to challenge your wishes in probate court.
Taking the right steps when planning your estate can help you leave a legacy that won’t include lasting damage to your children’s sibling relationships.