The Finance Blogger


Wills and Family Conflict

Wills and Family ConflictIt is surprising just how much conflict is generated over a will both before someone passes away and after. Families seem to get tied in knots over various issues. All it does is cause bad feelings and / or lost money because it gets tied up in the courts. Wills and family conflict are actually quite common.

The only ones who win in this situation are the lawyers. First we will deal with issues that seem to come up during will preparation and prior to the person preparing the will becoming deceased. Then we will discuss some of the conflict that is generated after the will is read and executed by the executor in the next post.

Wills and Family Conflict – Family Situations

The simplest case is a situation were the husband wife are planning to pass along their assets to their children. Normally this should be straight forward, however many times it is not. Throughout we will recommend strong communication with all parties. In most cases it is lack of communication and understanding of the participants. Most parents will divide out their assets equally to all surviving children. This tends to be the fairest way to do the distribution and avoid hurt feelings among the children.

Occasionally there will also be one child who has special needs that the parent has been providing for. Parents may ask for special arrangement to be taken to provide support for this child. As a result this child might receive a higher proportionate share of the assets. The value of doing this is it will ensure a better quality of life for someone who cannot take care of themselves, and it also decrease the support required by the remaining children which can be significant in some situations.

There may be some competition between the children regarding heirlooms or there may be a misunderstanding regarding who was to receive a particular item. Open discussion, even negotiation between participants usually works well. Sometimes the parents are uncomfortable with this activity. They feel that the children have them one step from the grave and are waiting to pick over what is left. This is just not the case in the vast majority of situations. Our answer to this is would you not prefer to see that your most prized possessions continue to be prized by someone and that the right person received it. You can derive a lot of pleasure by bequeathing heirlooms in your will to someone who will take great care of the family heirloom.

Having open discussions and even going as far as to put tags on items or creating a list of all items that you care about with the name of the recipient will help to resolve many areas of conflict. Discuss the list with your children so they know what to expect.

The Other Spouse

Another area causing a lot of concern is the new spouse. As children you have had to deal with the grief of losing a mother or father, then your surviving parent decides to remarry. We have all heard the horror stories were the new will is read, everything goes to the surviving spouse, which is the step parent and nothing to the children. Before you know it many of the treasured memento’s are finding their way to the step parents children or are being sold without any consultation to the original family members.

Open and honest conversation, although difficult is often the best approach to take. Sometimes it needs to be completed carefully and over a period of time to avoid ruffling feathers and causing more conflict. However if you have not had this conversation prior to a new will being drawn up, then you will likely be surprised.

New Will

If a spouse remarries, the previous will is usually null and invalid in many jurisdictions. This may come as a surprise to many people however this is just the way it is done. A new will needs to be written for all of the same reasons that the original was put together. The new will should take into account the needs of the new spouse as well as the needs of children of both souses.

Support for the remaining spouse is a discussion item that should also be considered. No one wants any body to experience any hard ship, while at the same time you do not want anyone to lose their families treasures. We recommend that the new will be created and discussed with all parties so there are no surprises and there is an opportunity to make adjustments if warranted.

A word of caution is warranted. We are suggesting lots of discussion, even negotiation with regards to the new will and the family members. The best approach is for all family members all to have input to the will preparation, however it is the owner of the will that has the final say with what goes into the will, how it is written, when it is written and how the assets of the state will be distributed. At the end of the day, you may not be totally happy with this approach, but that is and has to be the final way it is done.

Preparing a legal document as important as a will should be completed carefully and accurately. A will after all will communicate how you want your estate wound up and who should receive your assets. Take the time to do it right, try to avoid emotional decisions and try to be fair to all parties. Sometimes a will is used as a weapon from the grave. All it does is cause further grief and anger and most people end up thinking even less of the individual after they have passed away than they did when they were alive.

Our next post is going to discuss family conflict after the will is read and what you can do to deal with this situation.

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