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Strategies to plan an estate without family friction

Families are a major part of anyone’s life, so it makes sense that our families play a huge role in our legacy afterward. Our estates are typically designed to pass along and protect assets, so we can transfer them to our closest relatives.

But what do we do when the estate issues lead to hostility among family members? Following are some tips to help ensure smooth sailing for yourself and your heirs.

Schedule an open discussion

Before laying the groundwork of your estate plan, it’s probably a good idea to have an open discussion with family members about the expectations. If you want certain relatives to take on an administrative role, you can use the discussion as an opportunity to ask them and gauge their interest. You can also touch on:

  • An outline of your estate goals
  • Who will remember where your important documents are?
  • Explain who your executor is and why
  • Discuss guidelines for communication once the inheritance process begins
  • Ask what assets are crucial to each family member and how to fairly divide them

The conversation acts as a starting point where you can decide what works best for your family and yourself.

Establish a financial plan

Once you start the planning process, consider developing an overview of your finances. You will want to list all your major assets, liabilities and insurance policies. Along with that, you need to collect your attorney’s information, any passwords or logins for websites, and a letter that communicates any nonfinancial information for your beneficiaries. Including an overview helps give clear direction to all your family members, and it prevents any uncertainty about where your critical information is.

Find the right representation

The right attorney can help you achieve your goals, as well as help your family avoid problems during probate. Ideally, your attorney would have extensive experience in estate planning, tax strategies and business planning. For more on these matters, please see our estate planning overview.

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