While it is important to ensure your loved ones are taken care of after you pass, it is also important to understand the conflicts families may endure over your estate after you pass. Disputes can arise, whether you have a Will or not, due to conflicting feelings, misunderstandings, expectations, and even resistance to change or unspoken fears.
If you don’t have a Will, it can create a legal mess for your loved ones, which in turn can cause family disputes. There are certain laws, which vary by state, which will determine who your estate goes to. Basically, in the absence of a Will of yours, the law makes one for you. For example, if you are married with children and don’t leave a Will, a portion of the estate will go to your children, and the remainder would go to your spouse. As you can imagine, this can cause a great deal of headaches and feuds between your loved ones. Family members may even file lawsuits against one another.
When you create a Will, you decide who will inherit certain portions of your estate, easing the burden of having the state decide for you. Still, family disputes can erupt. Certain family members may not be happy with the distribution of the estate, especially because after you’re gone the only thing they have to go on is the four corners of the document – they can’t ask you why you did something you did. Perhaps there is an element of surprise when most of it goes to a charity, a church, or someone who helped you the most, or who was the closest to you. Others may feel that person or organization received unfair entitlement, and they end up disputing the will. In such a case as I’m fond of pointing out the only party that wins is the lawyer. You don’t intend to cut me, the lawyer, into your estate – don’t do it unintentionally by creating an environment fertile for litigation.
Sometimes siblings may feel uneasy about one sibling being the executor of the Will. Siblings may worry about how much that sibling knows while you are still living, and if that sibling will perform his or her duties. The other siblings may feel blind or out of touch which may cause uneasy feelings. They may fear that the executor will get the bulk of the estate, or be able to somehow manipulate the Will in order to ensure that happens. If you feel this could be the case, you can appoint a non-relative, or professional executor (such as an attorney).
Of course, there are ways to avoid family disputes over a Will. Having a good family relationship can help ease the burden. Once you create your Will, hold a family meeting, and discuss the specifics surrounding the Will, like who is in charge and why. The more organized and prepared, the less of a chance of a family dispute over your will (or lack thereof) later on. Hiring an attorney to ensure the will