The estate planning attorneys at Bodie Law discuss the common areas of disagreement for siblings dealing with situations in settling an estate.
A parent’s serious illness or passing is already fraught with emotion. But the aftermath can be even more difficult when siblings disagree about matters related to medical care or the settling of an estate. The following are a few common areas of contention and how best to avoid them.
1. Power of attorney: If you become ill and are unable to manage your own financial affairs, a legal power of attorney allows one of your children to make these types of decisions for you. Failure to have this in place can cause contention among children as to who will be responsible and what needs to be done.
Healthcare directive: This allows you to specify your wishes regarding your medical care should you become incapacitated. Again, the absence of such a document creates a void that is likely to be filled by squabbling siblings, and can lead to costly and time-consuming legal battles.
2. Last will and testament: It should go without saying that a valid will helps to ensure that your wishes are carried out upon your death, yet many people still die intestate. “Intestate” refers to when a person dies without having a will. The lack of a will opens the door to arguments among your survivors over who gets what.
3. Executor: The executor sees that assets are distributed in accordance with the will. Often one child is chosen to be the executor, leading to resentment among the others. Avoid this conflict by naming a neutral third party to this role, one with no financial interest in the estate. Alternately, you may name a child as executor but add a clause requiring a majority or unanimous consensus among the children on any financial matters (this may not be the best route if two children are involved).
4. Communication: For obvious reasons, many people are reluctant to discuss their own passing or to ponder the thought of being incapacitated. Matters of money can make for equally uncomfortable conversations. But pro-actively communicating your expectations to all involved, whether over medical matters or the distribution of your estate, can go a long way towards defusing potential conflicts. Make it very clear to the entire family what you expect to happen and you may be able to eliminate much of the bickering before it starts.
There are many circumstances within the processes of managing healthcare and settling an estate that invite disagreement among the survivors, and as the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. Make sure you have a valid will and healthcare directive at a minimum, and communicate to your children what you have planned and exactly what you expect of them.
Questions about healthcare directives or estate planning? Contact the estate planning attorneys at Bodie Law in Towson and Hagerstown, Maryland.