Trust Our Experience. Protect Your Position. 

  1. Home
  2.  » 
  3. Estate Planning/Asset Protection
  4.  » Can an estate plan prevent family members from fighting?

Can an estate plan prevent family members from fighting?

Most people putting together estate plans expect their legacy to be a positive one. They might decide to leave specific property for individual family members or may provide instructions to divide the estate according to their overall value.

There are advantages and drawbacks to either approach. For example, those who leave an uneven inheritance for different family members may have increased reason to worry about their children and other loved ones fighting over their estates. Failing to address certain assets that have significant emotional value for family members could also lead to conflict.

Disagreements about an estate could lead to intense conflicts between siblings or relationship damage that affects stepparents and their stepchildren. Those disagreements could lead to probate litigation. The family could waste estate resources fighting over the estate plan.

Testators can plan to deter litigation

One of the many tactics that those concerned about probate conflicts employ is the addition of a no-contest or forfeiture clause to their estate plan. They leave instructions to reduce or eliminate the inheritance of someone who contests their estate plan, a testator can deter people from initiating frivolous lawsuits.

Other people might use trusts or transfer-on-death designations to keep assets out of probate court entirely. By arranging for transfers outside of the probate process, it may be possible to keep people from fighting over specific assets. The right estate planning strategy can significantly reduce the likelihood of conflict.

Testators may need to have difficult conversations

Simply including special terms in an estate plan isn’t enough to prevent family members from feeling angry or disappointed. The best way to prevent family members from feeling intensely disappointed about the terms included in an estate plan is to openly discuss one’s plans with family members. Those who have time to accept the inheritance they are likely to receive may be less inclined to fight over the assets in someone’s estate.

Recognizing that the risk of conflict can diminish a personal legacy can inspire some testators to create more thorough estate plans. No-contest clauses, trusts and open communication can all help minimize conflict among beneficiaries after someone dies.