Planning Your Estate: What Happens When Siblings Are Feuding over Wills?

Planning your estate can be stressful—but maybe not for the reasons you think. Even if you know how you want your estate to be divided, your adult children might have different plans. This can ultimately lead to long and ugly battles with family members embroiled in court proceedings for years. You don’t want that for your family! That’s why it’s best to preemptively prepare for every eventuality and draft a concrete plan for the division of your estate—one that accounts for sibling rivalry. You can do so by taking a few simple tips into account.

Start the Conversation

Talking about money with your children can be difficult; chances are, you’ve avoided that topic with them for most of their lives growing up. However, it’s important to remember that when your children read your will, money will be the primary topic of discussion. And if you want your children to avoid an awkward and unpleasant future conversation for your children, it’s best to bite the bullet and start that conversation with them now.

You should also take time to listen to your children’s expectations about the inheritance. Their perception is important because they may have plans that center around what they expect to receive from your estate, like using the money for a business venture or paying for their children’s college tuition. Learning that all their plans were unrealistic is definitely a circumstance that can trigger hostility in your beneficiaries, so it’s best to be up-front with them about what they will receive.

Try to Divide Your Estate Equally

While it’s best to have an honest conversation no matter what your plans are, that discussion will certainly be a lot easier—in both the present and the future—if your estate is equally divided. As you can imagine, feelings of inequality and unfairness can quickly lead to resentment and start squabbles among otherwise peaceful siblings. Though there may be situations in which it isn’t plausible to make an equal division of your estate, this is definitely a tip to keep in mind.

Take a Deeper Look

If you’ve already tried the first two steps—and even if you haven’t—to understand the sibling rivalry surrounding the division of your estate, you might need to take a deeper look at the root cause. Though you might be baffled and think your children are simply being difficult, often, it’s not quite as simple as that. This is when it’s important to remember that no matter when you choose to have the estate-planning conversation, emotions will be high at this time.

Because talking about the division of the estate means thinking about your parents’ mortality, this is an acutely uncomfortable time for your children, and likely, they all handle that in different ways. They may also view this as a type of “final statement” from you, and in turn, a final reflection of your love. That’s why it’s important for you to dig deeper and address these concerns so that everyone can be open with each other and you can comfort your children.

Following these tips won’t prevent sibling rivalry or insure that unpleasant conversations never happen, but they can help you to avoid a rarely considered—and often damaging—side to planning your estate.

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