Family squabbles about who gets the assets and valuables owned by a deceased loved one happen all the time in New Jersey and elsewhere. A sibling thinks he or she should get the heirloom silverware you own. Your son always yearned for your priceless baseball card collection — but it was not bequeathed to him. The distribution of your financial assets can incite rancor that might tear your family apart forever.
Passions quickly become inflamed when it comes to who gets what, especially when objects of sentimental or symbolic value are at stake. What arrangements can you make now to stave off fierce battles between your relatives after you are gone?
Actually, there are some proactive steps you can take to quell discord. No preventive measure is surefire and foolproof, but some common-sense estate planning can go a long way toward maintaining harmony during a stressful time of transition in your family.
Heading off family wrangling over your estate
- Choose the best person to be your executor. Too often, people just pick someone close to them. Instead, name a person who has integrity, tact, reliability and will stand his or her ground if family bickering erupts. Above all, the executor you select should unfailingly represent your best interests.
- Ask those close to you which of your possessions they want after your death. If agreements cannot be reached, have language in your will permitting your executor to sell any items fought over by your heirs.
- Have your financial assets distributed without needless delays. Delays only cause resentments to fester for years.
- Tell your heirs why one person might be getting more money or assets than another in your will. Being straightforward about such matters now won’t leave your relatives angry and puzzled about your decisions later on.
Estate planning isn’t easy. There are many momentous legal decisions that you will want to be clear about in your own mind and in your will. Getting expert help can avoid painful rifts in your family that you won’t be present to referee.