It’s not a pleasant thing to have to consider, but the reality is that sometimes families end up fractured in the wake of a loss. Old rivalries and jealousies can surface in times of grief and distress when emotions are already running high.
One of the best ways to try to avoid this from happening to the ones you love is to plan ahead and make your wishes known while you’re still here to explain your decisions, if you feel that might be helpful to your loved ones.
Nolo1 has the following suggestions for helping to avoid fights and disputes over your estate:
- Choose your executor with care. Some people automatically select their oldest child to be their executor, but if that person happens to lack organizational skills, isn’t reliable, and isn’t good at communicating clearly with others, they are probably not the best choice. Select someone who is trustworthy, responsible, and who you know will be good at keeping other family members updated on the estate process—even if they happen to be the baby of the family.
- Be transparent. There are lots of reasons why we might choose to leave certain treasures to specific family members, or why one child or grandchild might be left more money than the others. If you know a decision you’re planning to make might upset or confuse others, explain your reasoning now while you’re still here to do so. They may still disagree with your decision, but they won’t be blindsided after you’re gone, and there will be no risk that they might think a mistake was made. This is also a good time to find out what heirlooms your family members actually do want. Knowing their wishes may make your decisions easier, and will allow your family members to feel like they were included in that process, even if they end up not getting the item they expressed interest in.
- Give your beneficiaries guidance. If you don’t particularly care what happens to the possessions that don’t have any sentimental value, tell your executor or offspring that they can hold an auction, sell, or donate the contents of your home as they see fit. Release them from the expectation that they must divvy up every single item you own. If, however, you prefer to leave all of your personal belongings and household furnishings to your beneficiaries in “equal shares,” as is common in many wills, make sure to leave instructions on how exactly this is to be accomplished. Be clear about who will be divvying up your items, and what “equal” means.
- Keep your estate planning documents up to date. It’s good practice to update your will, trust, and beneficiary designations every few years or when you’ve had a major life change such as a marriage, a new child, a new grandchild, divorce, or the death of a major beneficiary. Expecting family members to figure out how to include a grandchild that wasn’t included in your will because you didn’t update it when that child was born is asking for trouble. Another benefit of keeping your documents up to date is that it’s far less likely that family members will contest a will that has been regularly updated, since it’s clear that you were on top of your legal and financial matters, and promptly reacted to changes in your circumstances.
- Choose your lawyer carefully and deal with them independently. If at all possible, choose a lawyer who has been recommended to you, but who is not someone who has done work for someone you will be leaving money to. Have discussions with your lawyer privately, even if a family member has driven you to the appointment to help you out. You never want it to appear as though someone has influenced you, and you want to be able to express your wishes to your lawyer openly and honestly without worrying about what someone else in the room is thinking. Your lawyer needs to know that what you are asking them to set up is exactly what you want.
LawAssure can help
Foresters Financial has launched a convenient and easy-to-use new member benefit called LawAssure that can help you get your affairs in order and protect your families while planning for their futures. LawAssure is an online document preparation service provided through Epoq that gives Foresters members online access to customizable documents that can be specifically tailored to the personal circumstances and local jurisdiction of the member. LawAssure can help you:
- Write a will
- Make powers of attorney
- Prepare healthcare directives
Visit MyForesters.com for more information and to start using LawAssure today!
Foresters Financial member benefits are non-contractual, subject to benefit specific eligibility requirements, definitions and limitations and may be changed or cancelled without notice.
LawAssure is provided by Epoq, Inc. Epoq is an independent service provider and is not affiliated with Foresters. In US, not available in Louisiana. In Canada, not available in Quebec, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. LawAssure is not a legal service or legal advice and is not a substitute for legal advice or services of a licensed attorney. Foresters Financial, their employees and life insurance representatives, do not provide, on Foresters behalf, legal, estate or tax advice.
417951B CAN/US 05/20