We love our families, and the idea of conflicts after a death is often an unforeseen and unexpected possibility. In fact, many families state that, “We have a great relationship and would never argue over the estate.” We often hear parents claim, “Our children get along great. We’re not worried about conflicts between them.” Unfortunately, even the greatest of families can face conflict after a death. Part of the reason this is true is due to the heightened emotions that come with the death of a loved one, and the stress of working out the affairs of the estate.
Here are some of the most common reasons for discord after death:
Repressed Emotions and Resentments. Many families, for the sake of peace and harmony, often hide or repress feelings of anger, frustration, inequality, neglect and resentment. Many people do not wish to face potential conflict and thus “sweep it under the rug,” metaphorically speaking. Unfortunately, these emotions have a tendency to express themselves during times of heightened emotion – especially after a death! Take time now to resolve any conflicts, discuss any hard feelings and provide understanding and forgiveness to each other. Doing so now will help avoid difficulties later and will provide an extra measure of peace at the time of the death.
Unequal Distributions Cause Misunderstanding and Anger. Many parents choose to leave their children varying sums of money as opposed to dividing the estate equally. There are a vast number of reasons for why a parent would do this. However, if these reasons are not explained to the children prior or laid out in the documents or a letter, feelings can be greatly hurt. The child who receives a smaller portion of the estate may feel that they are less loved by their parents. The unequal distributions may cause discord, jealousy and anger between siblings. Sometimes one sibling receives more because they have greater financial difficulty, more children, outstanding medical bills or other specific needs. Also, the other siblings may have already received some of their inheritance as assistance while the parents were still alive and the parents provided them with less in the estate distributions in order to even out their funds between their children. Take the time to explain your reasons to your children and ensure them that you love them all equally.
Disagreements Regarding How to Dispose of Assets. Some parents are very definitive on what the children should do with their physical assets and how personal property should be divided up. Do you want the children to sell the house or to keep it in the family? Are there antiques that should not be sold? Are there items you would like to be donated?
The Valuables without Defined Value. Believe it or not, one of the biggest things siblings fight over is not the items of high monetary value, but the items of sentimental value. Make certain that, before you die, you take a moment to understand what items are really important to each of your children and write up a sheet that declares who will receive each item. For remaining items, or items that multiple children want, have a drawing or lottery to decide future ownership. This provides a fair and equal way to divide sentimental assets and avoid fights over possessions after your death.
Perceived Entitlement Can Form Resentment. Sometimes when a child has been receiving financial assistance from his parents, he can form a feeling of entitlement. This child can become resentful when he feels that the support is taken away from him. Situations such as these can create conflicts with other siblings, especially in regards to inheritance.
Take the time to talk to your children, resolve any existing issues and explain the distributions you have chosen for your estate. The best way to avoid conflict is through honesty and preparation.
For more information or to schedule a free consultation with an MH estate planning attorney, contact us today at 888.222.1328.
Why Choose Morris Hall:
You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall? First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters. Also, MH is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones. We are one of only two firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership. If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with MH. Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.