Inheritance disputes continue to increase in number. Higher estate values and complex family structures lead to individuals battling for a bigger slice of their deceased relative’s estate plan. For such reason, legal advice regarding the will or estate plan preparation is highly recommended. This can minimize the risk of claims and other errors in the entirety of the prepared document.
On the other hand, it’s imperative to recognize that family structures and assets are subject to constant change. This makes estate planning more challenging and complex. It may even lead to more issues such as failure to preserve value, theft of estate items, and difficult management of the shared property. No one wishes to see family disputes or claiming issues over their inheritance. In this article, we’ve listed the basic steps to protect assets and prevent family inheritance disputes.
1. Create a clear estate plan
An estate plan often comes to mind when a person starts to get sick or is retiring. Waiting for these to happen before creating an estate place can result in errors as you may not be in the best position or shape to clearly communicate your wishes. This is why it is advisable to start preparing the documents with a qualified estate planning lawyer while you’re physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. Hiring a credible attorney can save you from all the hassle and legal complexities of the process.
More so, remember that addressing the decisions regarding the estate plan can be a bigger burden for an ill person. Be concise and clear with wishes and decisions to include in the plan. Try to remember any promises you gave to your family members and acknowledge them when creating your estate plan. Most importantly, update your estate plan when necessary. This can be done when a major life change happens, such as a divorce or new birth. Seek the assistance of your lawyer when updating the plan.
2. Address the impact of gifts
The second step is to think about the impacts of your gifts. Ideally, a parent is recommended to provide equal gifts to their children during life and after death. This is a surefire approach to prevent inheritance conflicts. Avoid making the mistake of giving better or more gifts to a particular child, thinking that they need them more. That child will then end up receiving more even when the parents equally divide their estates. This unfair distribution can ignite inheritance disputes between the children. Be specific with the gifts to include in the estate plan and ensure that everyone in the family understands your genuine intentions.
3. Set up a living trust
One aspect of estate planning to take into account is a living trust. This fiduciary agreement manages the creator’s assets for his or her benefits until death. The assets will be transferred to the rightful beneficiaries upon the trust creator’s death. Including this in the estate plan prevents probate. This process can cut down the inheritance and delay the distributions. \
Probate is a long and expensive judicial process, which means more estate money can be saved if there’s a living trust. And while a will is considered a public document, a living trust offers privacy for the involved parties. It can also assist when the creator becomes ill or incapacitated, and peace of mind that the assets are protected.
4. Predict joint account disputes
In most states, the intention of adding a joint owner to a bank account means that they will receive all the funds upon the death of the primary creator. This is a typical setup for spouses. But disputes arise when one parent adds just one child as a joint owner, leaving the conflict of where the funds should be split equally to all the children or the joint owner will receive them all. This is an intention that must be specifically included and dictated in an estate plan.
A person planning to create a joint account should inform their estate planning attorney to properly communicate and document the intentions as to which family member will receive the funds in the account upon the creator’s death. The lawyer must be informed of any changes to the plan, small or big.
Considering these things can help you set up your will or estate plan the right and legal way. Only talk to a trusted and experienced lawyer to minimize the delays and errors in the entire process. Choose the right professional who can carry out your wishes and help you cut off the possibility of future family inheritance disputes.