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How can I prevent my kids from fighting over my estate?

You know the importance of planning your estate, but you may be at a loss about where to begin, especially if the family dynamic is less than ideal. If you have visions of your children fighting and litigating over your assets, you may be tempted to leave everything to charity and be done with it.

While you certainly want to hand down your legacy, you may already see the signs that things will not go smoothly. Perhaps you remember feeling grateful, even humbled by the gift your parents left for you. So why is it so different with this generation?

Reasons why so many heirs argue over their inheritances

Psychologists have noticed the difference too. Some believe the obsession with money in today's culture is partly to blame for the way some adults place money ahead of relationships. Other reasons why adult children tend to be more willing to dispute their parents' estates is because they haven't saved for their own retirement, and they are counting on the inheritance to jump start their fund. Still others may simply feel entitled to the estate.

If you raised your children to be independent and self-sufficient, they may be unsure how to face the possibility that you may become dependent on them. They may not be prepared for this emotionally, and they certainly aren't financially ready.

Revealing your plan while you live

Before yielding to the temptation to give away your assets and leave your children in the cold, psychologists recommend you initiate a series of discussions with your children to outline your intentions in your estate plan. For example, you may wish to discuss the following topics:

  • Your health and preferences should your health decline
  • Alternatives for long-term care
  • Your expectations for the distribution of your assets
  • Your wishes concerning the family business or California real estate
  • Any provisions in your estate plan for charities or beneficiaries other than your children

You do not have to deal with these topics all at once. Meeting periodically with your children to discuss future affairs may create a climate of cooperation and understanding that could potentially preempt estate challenges or disputes.

Of course, there is always the chance that your children will not be amenable to your plans for regular estate planning meetings. In such cases, the establishment of a solid plan that forestalls potential conflicts is crucial. Additionally, once your plan is in place, regular review and revision of the documents will ensure the plan grows and changes with the circumstances in your family.

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Law Office of Jeffrey B. Pape, P.C.
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