Bay Area Estate And Tax Planning Law Firm

Planning your estate when there is family conflict

On Behalf of | Sep 11, 2023 | Estate Planning |

Not all California family members get along with each other. However, the last thing most parents want is for their passing away to exacerbate the situation among their children. That doesn’t mean you must treat them equally, but you should avoid surprising them when your representative reads your will.

Unequal distributions

There’s no rule that you need to divide your assets equally among your offspring. You might feel that one child has a greater need than the others, or you may be estranged and decide to leave them less. The choice is up to you.

Communicate your intentions

Communication is the key to preventing surprises. Hold a family meeting to avoid misunderstandings and engage your children in an open and honest discussion about your plans. If you think one sibling deserves less of an inheritance, explain why. They might be angry, or they could change your mind. You’ll never know unless you talk about it first.

Consequences of lack of communication

There may be unfortunate consequences if you have private estate-planning conversations with your offspring. After your death, a slighted child might believe their siblings unduly influenced you and use that argument as grounds to contest your will. If that child succeeds, a probate judge may distribute the assets evenly and not according to your wishes. Open communication before you finalize your wishes may lessen the probability of legal challenges.

But legal issues aren’t the only unfortunate consequence. If there are unexpected unequal distributions, subsequent discontent and suspicions among your children may last a lifetime and carry over into future generations. That is not a legacy that any loving parent wants.

Make life easier for your heirs by discussing your plans with them. It may cause hurt feelings, but no one will be left living with false expectations of future enrichment.