How to Avoid Family Tension with Estate Planning

Your estate plan is a great tool to plan how and when your family will benefit from your assets after your passing. It has another purpose, though, that is just as important—preventing family tension. 

When planning your estate, you can have confidence in knowing that your family is taken care of, even when you’re gone. But, while helping take care of your family financially is the goal, a well-planned estate can also help take care of them emotionally. Unfortunately, even the closest family can feel severe tension when talking through a loved one’s assets after their death. You can help ensure that your family’s grief is not compounded by financial arguments and tension. Here are a few things to consider as you build your estate plan

Discuss Your Intentions with Your Family 

Although discussions about your death, or even about finances, may make you or your family uncomfortable, they are extremely important for avoiding later tension. Be open and honest with your loved ones about how you will plan your estate. Allow a judgment-free conversation, offering your insight and explaining why you’ve made the choices you have. 

Conflict often arises when a member of the family is surprised by what they find in the plan. This surprise, compounded with grief, can create a hostile environment and break relationships.

Write a Letter Explaining Your Intentions

Perhaps you express yourself better in writing, or you want to reiterate your intentions in a formal letter. You can write a letter of intent to clearly lay out your plans and explain why you made certain decisions. This letter could help your family better understand your thought process and re-iterate your wishes. 

Consider Giving Away Assets in Life

If you are concerned about your family members fighting over certain pieces—jewelry, furniture, and other valuable or sentimental items—you might consider giving these to them while you are still living. By giving them as gifts for birthdays and holidays, you could potentially avoid tension and arguments over them when you’re gone. 

Appoint a Professional Mediator

When a loved one dies, emotions are running high, and people aren’t usually thinking very clearly. A professional mediator is trained to remain calm and objective, while helping to settle disputes by finding a resolution that satisfies everyone involved. If you foresee your family arguing, or even as a precautionary measure, you can hire a mediator who can help facilitate the more difficult discussions. 

Create a Continuity Plan for Your Business

Your family will likely have many different opinions about what “should” happen to your business once you are no longer in control. Take some time to write out a continuity plan that explains who will run your business, what will happen to the business’ assets, who will own the business, etc. Think through possible scenarios that you can get ahead of, ensuring that you can provide the direction needed upon your passing. 

Revisit Your Plan Periodically

Our lives often change dramatically from year to year. The estate plan and corresponding items that you created a few years ago may not reflect your life at present. Make a plan to revisit your estate plan every so often to ensure that it’s up to date—just in case the unexpected were to happen. 

Want to Work with an Estate Planning Professional?

A financial advisor can help lead you through the appropriate steps in your estate plan to help ensure that all your bases are covered and that nothing is left to chance. Plan with confidence, and contact Southwestern Investment Group today to schedule a consultation!

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