Family litigation occurs not from a lack of trying to solve the issue, but from a lack of planning.
When you begin planning for your estate, you are planning for your family. This very accurate statement hides a double meaning. Obviously, it means "planning for your family" (i.e., ensuring your family's well-being financially) and, more subtly "planning for your family" (i.e., ensuring your family's well-being relationally).
You see, family infighting is a very real and present danger, even within families that are otherwise loving and respectful. Death and the resulting inheritance are fraught with emotional danger. How do you plan to avoid the family feud?
Families are simply too complex to offer any silver bullet suggestions (each family is the sum total of each family member's hopes, dreams, anxieties, and often petty obsessions). However, estate planning attorneys have ways to prevent estate litigation.
Each attorney may have his or her own choice list of tactics. However, WealthManagement.com published a list worth consideration in an article titled "Avoiding Family Conflicts During Estate Planning."
The original article is worth reading, but here is the list of bullet points in summary:
- Overcome the Concept of Fairness
- Transfer Assets Based on a Natural Flow
- Protect Family Assets
- Make Major Decisions with Every Family Member in the Room
- · Do Not Wait for the Original Founder of the Family Business, or a Parent, to Pass Away
- · Evaluate What You Can and Can't Afford to Transfer
- · Treat Estate Planning as an Ongoing Process
- · Pick the Right Professional Advisor
It's worth reading through the list and a few more like it.
What does your family need and how will you plan "for your family" to head off squabbles, infighting, or outright litigation?