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Family Fighting Over Inheritance: Handling Family Friction

Published July 17, 2020 by Brady Cobin Law Group, PLLC
How to Handle Estate Planning Amid Family Friction

Often the biggest obstacle to estate planning revolves around family dynamics. How parents, children, siblings and others interact with one another can guide or derail a plan for efficiently transferring assets from one generation to the next.

The start of the estate planning process can stir up family friction if discussions of inheritance begin and some family members have desires that are not being addressed.

At the Brady Cobin Law Group, PLLC, we offer thoughtful estate planning advice and compassionate advocacy for families as a whole. We try to be sensitive to family dynamics. Attorneys Dan Brady and Andrew J. Cobin are board-certified by the North Carolina State Bar as specialists in estate planning and probate law. They understand that the role of counselor involves being sensitive to family dynamics and helping a family honor the legacy they’ve built while protecting future generations.

If you need to establish a will and make other plans for dividing an estate and expect friction among some family members, contact Brady Cobin Law Group in Raleigh and Wake Forest, NC, to discuss how we can help you. We are a boutique law firm committed to dealing with the wide variety of concerns that arise when families are tackling tough estate and elder law issues.

Our attorneys focus on providing high-quality representation. We’ll take the time that is needed to see your needs through.

Transparency in Estate Planning Can Reduce Fighting Over Inheritance

While you may not ever get all members of the family on the same page, we can help you get organized so that everyone understands your estate planning objectives.

First, we would work with you to get a complete financial overview of your estate. This is a list of all assets, liabilities and insurance policies you have, including who the beneficiaries of the insurance, retirement accounts and bank account are.

We can help you draft a letter of introduction and explanation, which could address nonfinancial assets that will eventually be conveyed. For example, if you have drafted instructions for specific actions, such as selling a vacation home, or deciding that certain individuals are to receive valuable or treasured items, you can explain why.

Providing this information ahead of time could make clear your wishes and avert a family dispute over your inheritance later. This package of information will also be useful to the executor of your estate.

We would also work with you to compile a list of usernames and passwords for financial accounts online, which could be kept by your estate planning attorneys for release to the executor upon your death.

Make the Family Aware of Your Estate Planning

The next step is a family meeting to discuss your plans for division of your assets after your death. This is a good time to name your executor and explain to family members why you’ve chosen this person for these duties.

Most of the family meeting should be an explanation of how your assets are to be distributed upon your death and that you have established a will and/or trust(s) to ensure your wishes.

You should be ready to reiterate and defend specific instructions for selling or bequeathing highly valued assets. You may want to state that you have attempted to be fair and that you hope that explaining your plans will help pull the family together rather than tear it apart.

This family meeting is also a good time to state your health care desires and what you do or do not want done if you fall ill and cannot speak for yourself. If you can announce that you have an advance medical directive that specifies your medical care preferences, that would benefit your family, as well.

Being open and communicating what is important to you can keep family members from having to deal with disappointment in a time of grief and may stop arguments before they begin.

Legal Steps in Estate Plans May Stop Family Disputes Over Inheritance

Unfortunately, a well-meaning plan and a family meeting are no guarantee that all your family’s issues will disappear. There are legal steps you may take to strengthen your estate planning documents and minimize conflict.

Another legal tool for enforcing a will is a no-contest clause. This is a provision in the will that says that any beneficiary who contests the will loses his or her inheritance. It is not an automatic guarantee. If a beneficiary has a valid, good faith challenge to the will, the court will hear them out. But a no-contest clause may prevent a disgruntled family member from moving forward just because he or she is unhappy.

Another approach is to distribute your estate through lifetime gifts before you die. This requires keeping an eye on equity if preventing family strife is the objective.

We can help you calculate how much you can give to family members while staying financially stable and within annual limits. Lifetime giving is also useful as a strategy to minimize or eliminate potential gift and estate tax liability.

Contact Our Experienced Estate Planning Attorneys Today

You can head-off family disputes over the disposition of your estate by establishing your plans while you are healthy and your reasoning cannot be legally questioned. Properly executed estate plans can ensure that your final wishes are carried out.

An estate planning lawyer at Brady Cobin Law Group, PLLC can analyze your situation, discuss your goals and offer smart estate planning and communication strategies to minimize family friction. We offer set fees for most estate planning matters and can be ready to assist your executor and/or family with estate administration when the time comes.

To schedule a consultation with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney at Brady Cobin Law Group in Raleigh or Wake Forest, NC, please contact us online or at (888) 324-3100 today.

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