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Families and estate planning: you can't overvalue communication

Is there a malcontent in your family, say, a brother or sister who constantly complains of some perceived inequity in how he or she is treated vis a vis all the other siblings?

Or is there perhaps a sibling who, compared with other family members, always seems unduly sensitive and is easily hurt when a family decision affects him or her even slightly differently from other members?

Many people anecdotally hear from others that, in their families, harmony uniformly prevails, with discord being a flat impossibility under any circumstances.

Take that with a grain of salt.

Every member of a family comprised of multiple siblings knows that rain and thunder co-exist with sunshine.

And many such families ultimately discover during the probate process following a loved one's passing that, absent effective -- that is, timely and candid -- family communications regarding estate planning particulars prior to that individual's death, the aforementioned thunderclaps can dominate the collective family mood.

A recent article focusing on family acrimony that often ensues following a loved one's death in instances where planning essentials were not timely addressed notes that post-mortem discord could often have been avoided in a relatively simple way.

That media focus stresses that quarrels frequently result "after a person that holds the family together dies."

That often means mom and dad, with the fireworks catalyst many times being unequally doled out inheritances and distribution of heirlooms that wasn't well considered at an earlier time.

The central point made by the authors of the above-cited article is acknowledgment of the value inhering in some straightforward communication among family members prior to a parent passing.

Open talk can minimize the possibility later on of any "mom and dad loved you more than me" complaints based on the fact that assets and heirlooms weren't parceled out in a manner absolutely preferred by all heirs.

That is an impossibility. Discussing it, as well as what involved parties think is important, can go far toward promoting family equanimity and enduring love when the details of an estate plan are ultimately revealed.

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