For many individuals in the process of estate planning, the decisions related to the distribution of assets or the creation of a trust can be made relatively easily. What often complicates matters is the unique family dynamics that can bring undue stress into the situation. This can be especially true in cases of blended families where multiple marriages have taken place. When emotions run high between family members, even the simplest estate planning preparations can become extremely difficult.
Many individuals fail to share their estate planning decisions with their families for fear of causing family conflict. Issues related to the fairness of the distribution and perceived biases toward one beneficiary over another are frequent concerns. An individual’s desire to distribute their assets in a fair way does not always result in an equal distribution, which can be difficult for some families to understand.
Open communication between family members prior to an individual’s death is an important part of navigating difficult family dynamics. Once an estate plan is created, having a dialogue with family members about its content should be the next step.
Estate planning often includes directives regarding the distribution of a person’s assets and directions related to the individual’s final wishes for the disposition of their body after death. For many families, this can be one of the most contentious issues, especially if the deceased individual did not share their wishes before their death.
In many cases, individuals can anticipate a feud between family members. When past family dynamics indicate the distribution of assets will cause strife among the family, individuals can take certain steps to ensure their final wishes are honored and their families are protected.
Taking steps to avoid probate is particularly important when privacy concerns exist. Many individuals want to protect their feuding family from public scrutiny. Probate proceedings become part of a public record resulting in an unintended airing of the family’s dirty laundry.
Even in the most contentious of family situations, having an estate plan is a much better alternative than having no plan at all. In a recent survey of estate planning professionals, failing to create an estate plan is listed as one of the biggest mistakes a family can make when dealing with the death of a loved one. Knowing the deceased individual’s intentions as expressed through an estate plan is crucial in moving forward during this difficult time. Communicating one’s wishes for their estate after death is not enough without the legal documents to ensure these wishes are carried through. Drafting an enforceable will and estate plan with the help of an experienced lawyer is the best way to help families deal with the death of a loved one.
At Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C., our experienced West Chester wills and estates lawyers assist individuals and their families with a wide range of estate planning needs. Our offices are conveniently located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania to serve clients throughout Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County. To schedule an initial consultation today, call us at 610-565-3700 or contact us online.