Coates & Davenport, P.C.

Estate planning for high-conflict families

Family relationships are complicated, and many families in Virginia have their fair share of squabbles. However, when it comes to estate planning, family feuds can complicate matters. A person might want to name some relatives as heirs but not others, or an heir might contest a will they feel is unfair. Fighting can also come up during difficult emotional times, such as having to make medical decisions for an incapacitated loved one. Executing an estate plan in a high-conflict family takes care.

For example, it can help to make sure that once the estate plan is executed, all beneficiaries understand what the details of the plan are. This way there are no surprises, and it is understood what the creator's wishes are. Sometimes a simple conversation is all that is needed to make sure all parties are on the same page. However, leaving one heir less than another or disinheriting an heir entirely may lead to hard feelings if there is no reason given for the decision.

In addition, sometimes hard feelings arise if one sibling is chosen over another to serve as trustee. If this is the case, it may be wise to select an impartial corporate trustee instead. This can eliminate conflict between adult children with regards to the management of the trust.

These are only a few examples of ways high-conflict families and estate planning intersect. Family dynamics can be interesting, to say the least, and conflict can arise, especially when it comes to money. A person creating an estate plan will want to ensure that, if the estate isn't being divided evenly or if one adult child is given decision-making authority, that all parties know this ahead of time. The creator can leave a letter of intent as well, explaining why they made the decisions they did. With proper planning and communication, a person executing an estate plan can hopefully avoid causing a rift between loved ones.

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Coates & Davenport, P.C.
5206 Markel Road Suite 200
Richmond, VA 23230

Phone: 804-729-5537
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