Avoiding Sibling Disputes

One common theme when generating estate plans is laying out the groundwork to limit the opportunity for siblings to fight in the aftermath of a loved one’s death. One way to do this is to generate agreement ahead of time, so that the likelihood of misunderstandings and fights is reduced.

Another common mistake made in estate planning is not paying much attention to the smaller items. Although when you’re looking at the big picture of your entire state, it’s easy to overlook smaller items of sentimental value, these are also the most common items for siblings or other family members to dispute about after you pass away. Don’t fail to include them as itemized parts of your total estate.

You can limit the impacts of the disputes from the smaller items by speaking with your children and other family members about which items have the most value to them. These items may not have visited monetary value, but your children or grandchildren may feel they hold significant personal value. Knowing in advance which items are sought after or highly valued by your family members can allow you to create a plan for those items in your estate.

Well-conceived estate plans are the number one tool for limiting disputes. When an estate plan has been articulated clearly, there will be little questions about your intentions. Working with an experienced estate planning professional will also help you ensure that you have all the important baselines covered in your plan. Well conceived doesn’t necessarily mean complex, either. Simple estate plans with clearly written desires are the most effective.

The less siblings or other family members are required to work with each other, the less likely they are to fight. Avoid making separate people take from the same “pot” of assets- this will also limit the chances that they will argue with each other. When each person has a separate “pool” of assets they are drawing from, this is the ideal situation for estate planning.

Make sure that your surviving spouse, if there is one, is properly protected in the estate planning. There are numerous options that will allow for transfer of assets to a spouse, but they all have different stipulations. You should walk through your plan with an estate planning advisor or attorney to learn more about your choices. Some options within estate plans that can be used to protect your spouse include gifts within a trust and outright gifts.

The better you plan your estate, the less likely that family members will quable after you pass away.