If you have adult children, you undoubtedly want to do all you can to prevent disputes between them after you are gone. While there is no way to accomplish that goal with 100 percent certainty, the Grand Forks estate planning attorneys at German Law Group offer the following tips to help prevent estate disputes between siblings.
What Happens When There Is a Dispute Over Your Estate?
No matter how old you are, nor how much warning and preparation an individual had, the death of a parent is never easy to handle. There is also no universally acceptable response to death. People grieve in their own way. If you have more than one child, they may each handle your death differently. One may be angry while another remains in denial and yet another may focus on the practical steps that need to be taken. At the top of the list of practical steps will be arrangements for your funeral and the administration of your estate. Both are ripe for the possibility of conflict and disputes. Disagreements about how your body will be handled and the service to be planned could erupt almost immediately which could cause a rift that will not be easily healed. If one child is not happy about the terms of your Last Will and Testament, a Will contest could be filed. The ensuing litigation could deplete your estate assets as well as delay the completion of probate by month, even years. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take that will significantly diminish the likelihood of estate disputes between siblings.
Steps You Can Take to Prevent Disputes
Nothing you do will guarantee peace and harmony between your children after you are gone; however, the following steps may help avoid disputes:
- Include funeral and burial planning in your estate plan. As part of the plan, create a funeral trust which allows you to make it clear who will be in charge of your funeral by appointing a Trustee. In addition, you can use the terms of the trust to express your wishes regarding your own funeral to limit the opportunity for disputes.
- Have a complete physical prior to executing your Will. Doing so makes it much more difficult for anyone to claim that you lacked the capacity necessary to execute a Will.
- Consider a neutral Executor. Instead of appointing one of your children – which often invites animosity from the other children – consider appointing a sibling, long-time friend, or your estate planning attorney.
- Do not use any DIY documents. These are frequently riddled with errors and omissions that invite litigation. Instead, work with an experienced estate planning attorney during the creation of your estate planning documents.
- Create a Letter of Instructions. This is a document that allows you to explain decisions you made within your estate plan or address issues not covered elsewhere in your plan. Nothing in a Letter of Instruction is legally binding; however, by explaining controversial decisions it can help prevent disputes.
- Consider a no contest clause. This is a provision in your Will that disinherits a beneficiary if he/she chooses to contest your Will and is unsuccessful. For a no contest clause to work, however, the beneficiary must have something to lose, meaning they must stand to inherit something under the terms of the Will.
- Discuss your estate plan with your children. Not everyone is comfortable doing this; however, by divulging the terms of your estate plan ahead of time, and providing the opportunity to discuss those terms, it can reduce the possibility of disputes after you are gone.