People in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin may know that it is important to have an estate plan. However, they may put off estate planning because they want to avoid family drama. These concerns are not unfounded.
Sometimes, heirs believe they are being cheated out of their rightful inheritance or they may believe that their loved one’s estate plan should not be followed because their loved one was not competent when it was executed, due to illness, dementia or Alzheimer’s. Some may even argue that their loved one was coerced into leaving all their assets to one heir while disinheriting another.
Ultimately, it is all too easy for sibling animosity to cast a shadow on your final wishes. However, there are steps a person can take when estate planning to reduce family friction.
First: Leave the drafting of estate planning documents to professionals
Do-it-yourself estate planning is often not effective in the end and may even be unenforceable. Hiring an attorney to draft estate planning documents can ensure these documents are legally sound and thus less likely to be challenged by an heir.
Second: Understand the extent of your estate
A comprehensive estate plan should make provisions for all of a person’s assets. Forgotten or hidden assets not included in an estate plan can cause controversy if multiple heirs believe they have a right to these unaddressed assets. Making sure your estate plan covers all your assets can simplify the estate planning process and minimize disagreements between heirs.
Third: Communicate, communicate, communicate
Once your estate plan is executed, share its contents with your loved ones. Heirs who know what to expect, and understand why you made the decisions you did, may be less likely to challenge your estate. Heirs also benefit from knowing who has been designated as executor of your estate and why. Explain how you tried to keep things fair, especially if one child is inheriting more than another. Transparency can address potential problems before they arise.
Ultimately, keeping an estate plan secret or incomplete can lead to problems and conflict following your death. This is generally something most people wish to avoid. At our firm, we work with our clients to ensure they understand all their estate planning options so they can make informed decisions. We understand the importance of executing a comprehensive estate plan that minimizes any legal challenges to our client’s estate. Challenges to an estate can be emotionally difficult, financially draining and time-consuming so it is important to take the steps necessary to avoid such contests.