The Finance Blogger


Will Execution & Conflict

Will Execution & ConflictOnce a person has passed away, there are various activities that need to take place to ensure that all of the wishes of the deceased and the family are dealt with. There is a funeral to arrange, notification of family members, assignment of an executor to manage the estate. They need to arrange to continue payment of all bills including utilities while the estate is being wound up. All of this needs to be done in stages during a time when everyone is stressed out and grieving for a family member who has passed away. The potential for conflict and generating bad feelings among family members is high.

Will Execution & Conflict : Dealing with Grief and Stress

Most people really just want to deal with their grief and do not want to focus on more business like issues such as reading the will and looking after assets such as homes and cars. However it can be important to deal with these sorts of things quickly. Houses must be maintained. If there is a business that needs to be kept going and people depending on the business for their jobs, they also need to know what is happening. At the least make an assessment of those items that need a decision and action immediately and those that can wait a few days or weeks before attention is required.

Keeping a level head in these situations and not allowing the stress of the situation get the best of you is so important. Some times discussions can become heated and cause family rifts when there is really no need. Agree to disagree, and take some time to cool off so you can deal with the situation in a more level headed business like manner.

Reading of the Will

The will should be read fairly soon for most situations. This can occur immediately after the funeral especially if there has been good communications with the family ahead of time so that there are no surprises. If there are urgent reasons such as tissue donations, family members traveling, business decisions that need to be addressed, the will may need to be read more quickly prior to the funeral being completed. Someone should peruse the will to determine if there are any instructions in the will regarding the funeral arrangements.

For some, the reading of the will, will be a tense situation. You are crowded into the lawyer’s office or conference room, you are still grieving and there may be some surprises or conflict that you really just do not want to deal with. Spouses of surviving children sometimes also insert themselves into the situation, which is not always the best idea when tension is high.

Unfortunately there is just no way of getting around this step. It must be done and all family members that are mentioned in the will should be in attendance. Typically what happens is that the lawyer will read the will, answer any questions and discuss the steps that need to be taken to execute the will. Everyone should receive a copy of the will and if necessary the death certificate. The executor will be assigned as per the will. Some people ask for more than one executor which is a great idea in many ways, but also is a potential area of conflict if there are disagreements about how the estate should be handled.

Will Execution & Conflict

We have reviewed in another post the duties of the executor in executing the will and the areas that he or she needs to pay attention to. One area that we did not discuss is the personal issues and the management of the relationships among the various family members.

Essentially communications and lots of it are the best approach, however an executor needs to remember that family members deal with grief as well as stress in various ways. Some will handle their grief well, were others will not and react in an emotional manner. The executors role is to manage the closing of the estate and were needed the management of family members who may not totally agree with the will or the way the estate is  being managed. This latter activity is only to allow you to move ahead, finalize the estate and close it as per the instructions in the will.

Generating conflict and creating tension is self defeating and usually ends up costing everyone more money. As an executor all of your actions will come under scrutiny and you may even be called on to produce records of the activities that you have undertaken. This is standard and if you are up front about it, then there should be no problem. Always be prepared to support any decisions you have taken and the reasons why.

Dealing with Conflict

Some recipients of the estate may be jealous of the fact that you are executor, some may feel that you are mot moving quickly enough, some may feel that the will was wrong or not clear enough. Regardless of what is driving the conflict, an executor should call family meetings to discuss the status and provide clarifications regarding the will or the actions they have taken. In some cases you may also require clarification from you lawyer if a legal issue is involved.

Always deal up front and be clear about your intentions. Always take notes and seek agreement to any area of conflict once it has been fully discussed. Everyone will feel better if their concerns have been heard and discussed. They may not be always happy with the answer, however they at least have an answer and understand how it was arrived at. Communicate and communicate some more is the mantra for dealing with  conflict.

In summary, there will be some conflict in every family. Always try to take the high road and ask the question, “How would dad or mom want this handled?” don’t sweat the small stuff!

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