The No-Fight Estate Plan Plan

Avoid Estate Plan Fighting NJ
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Estate Planning Tips to Avoid Family Conflict

Money can bring out the worst in people. It’s amazing how siblings who were once so loving to each other start hating one another once a parent passes away.  As an Estate Planning/Estate Administration attorney in New Jersey, it’s always extremely sad to see.  It’s tragic.  

While there is no way to prevent this unfortunate turn of events, several wise estate planning strategies can decrease the odds of such disputes becoming serious—and help mitigate the damage if they do. These strategies should apply to every estate plan. However, they can be particularly useful if you have concerns your children may fight over your estate. To summarize:

  • Be clear and specific

  • Be inclusive and open

  • Be careful who you put in charge

Clarity is crucial. Will provisions that are vague, contradictory or otherwise subject to multiple interpretations often lead to estate litigation. This means that you must carefully describe who is to get what and provide for unforeseen circumstances such as the death or incapacity of a beneficiary. Ideally, your will should be drafted in such a way that it is not subject to interpretation by the executor. If there are disputes and uncertainty, the New Jersey Surrogate’s Court may need to get involved.

While estate planning is a deeply personal matter, it can sometimes be advisable to include your children and other heirs in the process. Estate plans drawn up or altered in secret late in life often raise questions of competence and incapacity. What’s worse, including one child in the process while shutting out the others frequently gives rise to suspicions of undue influence or duress. Being open and honest with all your children about your estate plan may sometimes be difficult, but it can stop many problems before they start.

Being the executor of a will can be a challenging job and choosing the right one is one of the most important decisions you make when planning your estate. While typical considerations include availability, judgment, trustworthiness and organization, some other factors can come into play in a delicate family situation. Appointing all your children as co-executors can paralyze the administration process but appointing one over the others can create problems of its own if the others become resentful. In these cases, appointing an executor who is not also an heir or even a corporate fiduciary may be advisable.

While the decisions are ultimately yours, we can help you understand the issues. Contact our New Jersey, Union County (and Hunterdon County) Estate planning firm by phone at 908-236-6457 or by emailing me at alec@bmcestateplanning.com.

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