Family discord is not uncommon. In fact, avoiding family disputes is one reason to plan an estate carefully. Unfortunately, merely planning an estate alone is not sufficient to avoid a family dispute. It must be planned in the right way to avoid disputes.

There are many elements which enter into a family dispute about estate planning. Here are a few:

  • Bad Dynamics

Often, there is little that can be done about bad family dynamics due to extenuating circumstances such as a long history of bad blood between two brothers. When there are deep rifts in a family, many times there is little that can be done, except to plan for the possibility of a dispute. For example, a no contest or “in terrorem” clause should be considered. Such a clause disinherits anyone who contests the estate plan. This works especially well when coupled with a substantial bequest.

  • Unfair Disposition

When there is a disposition which is likely to be viewed as unfair, it increases the likelihood of a contest. But, fair is not always equal. For example, if one child has special needs, it may be fair for that child to receive a greater portion of the estate. Also, if one child has been the parents’ caretaker, it may be fair for the caretaker child to receive a greater portion of the estate.

  • Lack of Communication

Often the biggest factors in a family dispute is lack of communication. There may be bad dynamics and what is perceived as an unfair disposition. But, when that disposition is a surprise, then the dispute escalates. The client should be encouraged to communicate their wishes to their family. This will increase the likelihood of their wishes actually being carried out and decrease the likelihood of a contest.

For more information on avoiding and handling family disputes surrounding your estate plan, contact us today.

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