Keeping the Peace Among Your Heirs

Nobody wants their death to generate unseemly squabbling about their estate among their heirs. With a little forethought, you can greatly reduce that possibility. Here are a few pointers.

Pull No Surprises

You know those movies where all the heirs are gathered around a large oval table waiting breathlessly to find out who inherited what? Don’t do that. Talk to your heirs long before your time draws near so they know exactly what to expect and can bring up objections while you are still around to deal with them. Just setting expectations goes a long way toward fostering family harmony. Imagine the shock of adult children who expected to get it all only to find after their father’s death that 90% of his fortune is going to charity – or the second wife.

Keep Your Will and Trusts Up to Date

Life changes constantly. People are born, marry, have kids, divorce, die and everything in between. Yet many people go a decade or more without reviewing their Will and Trusts. This can leave questions and hard feelings if you die before you get around to updating your estate documents. So, on a yearly basis and whenever there is a life event that requires it, review your Will and Trusts with your family and then update them with your attorney as needed.

Don’t Name Siblings as Trustees of Each Other’s Trusts

Naming one sibling as the trustee for another’s trust is an almost sure-fire recipe for disaster. It’s the easy thing to do, but it’s also very unwise. Acting as a responsible trustee may put one of your children at odds with their sibling and create irreparable rifts.

Be Careful Who You Do Appoint as Trustee

Appointing an experienced corporate trustee is a good option, but it’s also not without its risks if you do not do your due diligence. Of course, corporate trustees can cost quite a bit, but compare that against the strife and legal costs for siblings engaged in no-holds-barred litigation.

But even professional trustees such as bankers and attorneys can favor one sibling over another. For example, they might favor children of a first marriage over a second marriage. So be as specific as you can about how your property should be distributed and add a provision for replacing a trustee who is not treating your heirs with equal consideration.

Consider Setting Up a Trust for Each Child

If you set up one trust for your children as a group, there will be constant possible points of conflict. A group trust can cultivate jealousy and accusations of unfair treatment. Consider setting up a separate trust for each child. That way, siblings are not always in each other’s business. You can also discuss with each child who they would like appointed as the trustee of their trust without fear of disagreement with their siblings.

Think About It, then Call Us

We can help you set up trust that will minimize conflicts among your heirs and give you guidance about what you can do now to promote peace among your heirs when your time comes.