For many people, creating strong and enduring family relationships is a lifetime priority. When putting an Estate Plan in place, most people hope and assume that their wishes will be carried out peacefully and and with civility by their family members. However, the emotional circumstances of death combined with the transfer of assets can unfortunately sometimes bring out the worst in people. Here are some things you can do to help keep the peace:
Appoint a Qualified Executor
The Executor of your Estate Plan is the person responsible for the administration of your Estate – collecting and distributing assets, paying bills, filing tax returns, etc. Oftentimes this person is named out of tradition (i.e. the oldest son) or relationship (i.e. your best friend). However, it’s important to consider the qualities needed to carry out the job of Executor and appoint someone who is ethical, organized and responsible. In some cases, depending on family dynamics, you may want to consider hiring a professional to serve as Executor so that they can remain completely impartial.
Consider Personal Property
Often the things families argue about the most following the death of a loved one are the little things, things that hold sentimental value. Deciding now which items go to which individuals can lead to tough conversations, but ultimately will lead to a more peaceful transfer of property upon your death. You can avoid “Mom would have wanted me to have that” scenarios by making your specific wishes known. We recommend creating and maintaining a list with your will and other estate planning documents.
Discuss your wishes with your children so that there aren’t surprises or hurt feelings…especially if you’re making any unequal bequests. Everyone has (and is entitled to!) their reasons for how they decide to divide up their assets. However, if peaceful family relationships are a priority for you, it is important that you communicate your decisions directly with your family members. This may lead to uncomfortable discussions, but will provide your family members with solid answers to why you did what you did and hopefully prevent future animosity among family members.