Communication to Loved Ones Can Prevent Challenges to an Estate Plan
Aug. 17, 2015
When people construct an estate plan that addresses their intentions regarding the distribution of their legacy, the hope is that the arrangements in a living trust document or a last will and testament provide for a smooth and efficient transfer of the net worth acquired over a lifetime. However, inadequate estate planning can result in time-consuming and expensive contested litigation that delays access to resources a surviving spouse or children need to maintain their standard of living while also depleting the value of the legacy left to family members, friends, and/or charities.
Although many families accomplish the distribution of the legacy of a loved one with minimal upheaval and conflict, sometimes the process can promote deep family rifts while awakening dormant family disputes. When people exercise the foresight and wisdom to develop a legacy succession plan, they typically have a rationale for the way their assets and wealth is divided between family members. This is especially the case when the estate plan differentiates between comparable relations, such as omitting or reducing the amount left to a specific child. Although efficient estate planning can preempt challenges through skillful creation of an estate plan, communication with loved ones can also reduce misunderstandings and ill-feelings.
Estate plans that are not accompanied by honest and straightforward communication can promote contentious litigation, which can arise even with artfully drafted estate planning documents. While an individual might be apprehensive about articulating the precise arrangements and justifications involved in an estate plan, a broad overview permits anticipation and mitigation of problems. By offering a preview of your intentions, you can avoid unanticipated surprises, so family members who might be disappointed can ask questions and discuss concerns. While this approach might not completely resolve an issue involving an unhappy family member, frank discussion can discourage lawsuits that could needlessly deplete the value of your estate.
If an individual’s desire is to leave the bulk of the property in an estate to a charitable organization or a non-family member, these types of arrangements are more likely to lead to formal challenges of your estate plan. For example, inheritance might be divided unequally between children where there is a significant discrepancy between the financial statuses of adult children. Similarly, a disproportionate sum might need to be left to a child who suffers from a mental or physical disability. Further, an adult child might receive money during a parent’s lifetime, which might explain an unequal distribution because the in vitro transfer is considered advance inheritance. When family members and friends have preset realistic expectations as well as an appreciation for an individual’s distribution of his or her legacy, this can go a long way to preventing costly and time consuming legal challenges to an estate plan.
If you have questions about estate planning, estate administration, or the probate process, we welcome the opportunity to talk to you and answer your questions. We invite you to call the Kansas Estate Planning Attorney at the Weber Law Office or to submit an inquiry form through this website to schedule your initial consultation.