Estate Planning Goals: 7 Ways to Promote Peace and Harmony among Your Children

If you’re a parent, chances are fairly high that you’ve stepped in as a peacekeeper for your children more than once. Sibling rivalry is common among families and the strong emotions following the death of a parent can cause discord even in the most loving of families. One of the last things you can do to promote peace and harmony among your children is to prepare for potential conflict after you pass away.

1. Include a no contest clause.
A no-contest clause is sometimes referred to as an in terrorem clause. Many states will enforce a no contest clause, at least to some degree. Of note, Florida is not one of them. Basically, this type of clause voids any distribution made to a beneficiary who contests the will or trust. On the upside, this may be an effective deterrent against any challenges to your estate plan. Enforceable or not, the clause also clearly demonstrates your wish against fighting among your family members after your death. But this type of clause may also prevent a beneficiary from challenging a mistake in the document as well.

2. Treat all siblings equally in your estate plan.
In the most straightforward of family situations, an equal distribution to each of your children is also equitable. Or you may choose to divide your estate equally among your children despite their different economic circumstances as adults. In either case, communication is key. If you choose this type of distribution plan, it makes sense to communicate your intentions with your adult children either during your lifetime or through a memorandum of intent included with your estate plan.

3. Treat all siblings equitably in your estate plan.
Equal shares may not be equitable for your family situation, and you may want to use your estate to even things out. This is where communication with your adult children is even more essential. To promote harmony and peace, it may be beneficial to be sure each child understands the reasons behind your distribution plan through a conversation. If you consider lifetime gifts to your children as advancements against their inheritance, be sure to explain this. For example, if one child received private school tuition and the others attended community college, there may be a big disparity in what each child has already received during your lifetime. Or perhaps one of your children has achieved significant financial success and another has chosen a career path unlikely to provide beyond basic needs. If you choose to leave different amounts to your children, talk with them about the decision or, at the very least, include a memorandum of intent with your estate plan to help minimize potential disputes after you pass away.

4. Try to avoid forced sales.
When it comes to assets like the family businesses or the family cabin, you may unintentionally cause a conflict by assuming all your children have the same interest in the asset. For example, one child may see the family business as a lifetime employment source, whereas the others see it as an asset to liquidate. If the child who wants to carry on the family business can’t afford to buy out the sibling’s interests, a forced sale of the family business and intense family conflict may be the unfortunate outcome.

5. Review and update your estate plan regularly.
As is said, change is the only constant in life. It is important to review and update your estate plan regularly. Births, deaths, and divorces can all affect your estate planning goals, as can changes in tax law or estate law. Make sure you keep on top of changes that may affect how you want to distribute your assets to your children.

6. Be proactive.
If you anticipate a dispute among your children or want the peace of mind that comes from doing all you can to prevent a dispute, consider taking preemptive action. One of the most common ways to attack an estate plan is to challenge mental competence. Undergoing an exam by a doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist that is contemporaneous with the signing and including that report with your documents may be helpful evidence. Videotaping the signing of a will or trust may also provide valuable evidence against any undue influence or mental incapacity.

7. Work with an estate planning attorney.
An experienced estate planning attorney provides counsel specific to your family situation. When you are forthright with your estate planning goals and any concerns about potential family conflict, your estate planning attorney can create an estate plan that minimizes the risk of family conflict and promotes peace and harmony.

Contact an Experienced Virginia Estate Planning Attorney
To explore these ideas and more, work with us. We’ll help you create the ideal estate plan for your family situation. Contact Wilson Law PLC today at 866-603-5976 to set up a meeting or fill out our contact form and we’ll call you to schedule your meeting.