When one of our loved ones passes, we feel many emotions. Grief, pain, sadness, and heartache to name a few. Another common emotion is tension. It can be felt in many situations and interactions with those closest to us.
Here are four subjects involving family and close friends that can potentially sink an otherwise stellar estate plan.
1. WHICH SIBLING DID MORE?
This often arises when one sibling has provided much of the care to a parent throughout their last days. This sibling can get the feeling they’re entitled to more of their parents’ estate based on the work they did. Many times, the sibling living closest to the parent is granted permission to bank and other financial accounts. They feel the job and responsibility of caring for the parent’s needs, entitles them to more.
2. SPOUSES MARRIED TO THE FAMILY MEMBER LATE IN LIFE.
This has been seen many times in the media. Deservedly or not referred to as “gold diggers,” these people can be accused of exploiting an older person with wealth. They’ll get close to them, giving them the attention they want, and in return get their own names in wills and estate plans. This situation can be treacherous. While people can judge another’s intentions, it’s close to impossible to prove the “gold digger” was only after the money and estate.
3. STEPCHILDREN, STEPPARENTS, AND BLENDED FAMILIES.
Things can get tricky in a “Yours, Mine, and Ours” type capacity. This can be resolved with proper planning, but comes with its own difficulties. Often, the parents get a will showing their intentions to leave what they want to the right children; however, the estate can go to the spouse of the deceased before going to any of the kids.
4. THE BELOVED CAREGIVER OR CLOSE FRIEND.
Much like with the closest sibling, a caregiver or friend who helps aid the deceased can feel entitled to part or all the estate. They too cover grocery store trips, doctor and pharmacy visits, and other important facets of the loved one’s life, so it’s easy to see why they want a piece of the pie.
SO, WHAT CAN YOU DO?
The good news? These issues can be avoided by utilizing proper planning, communication, and understanding. Unless there are good reasons otherwise, talk with your family and close friends to let them know where your assets are going and provide your reasoning. That way, while there may be some hurt feelings in the immediate present, you’re assuring that family harmony is (mostly) preserved.
Chris established Christopher T. L. Brown, Attorney at Law, PLLC on October 20, 2009. Before starting his own firm, he practiced in the business planning and transactional section of HannaStrader, P.C., in Portland, Oregon, from August 2001 to March 2007.