Don’t Let Your Estate Planning Cause A Family Feud

Unfortunately, even the most well thought out estate planning can lead to conflict after you pass away. A family that normally gets along and has strong bonds can fall apart over accusations that one relative has “cheated” another by manipulating the descedant or falsifying the will or trust. Lengthy, expensive litigation can be the result.

While sometimes such probate litigation is necessary, the person crafting the estate plan can often avoid familial strife with sufficient planning. Here are some tips for minimizing the odds of a family conflict over your assets:

  • Rethink “fairness.” Parents often want to divide their estate evenly between their children because that would be fairest. On the surface, that would be the most fair, but you should consider your family’s individual circumstances. For example, when passing along a family business, one child may be more involved in the business than the others. He or she may resent having to share equal ownership with uninterested siblings.
  • Let the family know now. By informing your family of your intentions  and your reasons for dividing up your estate the way you plan to, there will be no surprises or misunderstandings later. Not everyone may like your plan, but at least they will know what to expect.
  • Be open to changes in the future. As life goes on, your children’s family and financial situations will likely change. When their fortunes wax or wane, it may make sense to amend your estate plan to make sure your overall goals are still being met.

Source:, “Avoiding Family Conflicts During Estate Planning,” E. Patricia Chantler and Wonsun Willey, May 15, 2013