Aug
21
A Clear Will Doesn't Always Avoid a Family Feud, But Communication Can
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An organized estate plan is one of the biggest gifts you can give to your family--but just having it in order isn't enough. Communicating your intentions to your children, spouse, and other beneficiaries--OR to any of these parties that would expect to have a claim but you have chosen to not make beneficiaries--is equally important to maintain peace after you are already resting in it.

Recently, a woman wrote to the Ethicist column in New York Times magazine in a quandary. Her mother, whom she had cared for a great deal in her later years, passed away, willing her daughter her home and its contents, and excluding her sons from the real estate inheritance. One of the brothers threatened to sue for his share of the inheritance shortly after his mother died, and the relationship between all of the siblings has now deteriorated to the point of zero communication. 

The brothers took no action to contest the will during the probate period, and the woman's lawyers have advised her that her ownership of the home is solid. Still, the woman's ethical question was whether she should sell the house and give her brothers equal shares. First, this would likely not result in instant family harmony, and second, this would not be honoring her mother's Last Will and Testament. While both of these answers may make the daughter financially more secure, they do not mend the fact that she has lost not just her mother, but in affect her siblings as well. 

It's a great start to have your paperwork in order; it's equally important voice your intentions so that you're not leaving your loved ones with an emotional legacy they didn't bargain for during a time when they are grieving a loss.

Source: NY Times Magazine

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