This is an article from the law office of Amen, Gantner & Capriano (http://www.yourestatematters.com/) in St. Louis, Missouri, that we thought others may find helpful.
Let’s face it – family dynamics can be complicated, to say the least. Some families, however, go beyond complicated into dysfunctional. When you are part of a dysfunctional family it can make the process of estate planning much more difficult. It can also dramatically increase the odds that someone in the family will bring challenge to your estate after you are gone. Fixing deep seeded family issues is not something that will occur overnight; however, the following tips for estate planning with a dysfunctional family:
- Acknowledge the problem. No one likes to admit that their family is less than picture perfect; however, if your family is dysfunctional, it is important that you acknowledge that fact when it comes time to create or review your estate plan.
- Start communicating. A failure to communicate is at the heart of most estate planning problems. Families, in particular, are prone to having communication problems. For instance, remember the telephone game from when you were little? One person whispers a sentence to another person, rarely who whispers what he/she thinks she heard to a third person, and so on down the line. Rarely is the end product the same as the beginning. In fact, sometimes the final version bears no resemblance to the starting version. Communication among family members can be the same. One of the best ways to avoid problems down the line with your estate plan is to communicate your intentions to your family members now. They may, or may not, be happy with the decisions you make in your plan; however, at least everyone will know where they stand ahead of time which will (hopefully) eliminate challenges and conflict when it comes time to actually implement your plan.
- Focus on your goals. Family issues can easily be a distraction when planning your estate. Don’t let them be. Decide what you want to accomplish within your estate plan and keep those goals in mind. You cannot single handedly solve all your family problems. What you can do is make sure you have a solid estate plan in place that protects and provides for your family members when you are gone.
- Leave the past where it belongs. Keep in mind that, in most cases, the provisions of your estate plan will not be implemented for many years to come. Remember, therefore, to think in the “big picture.” Do not allow family squabbles from the past impact decisions you make for the future.
If you are part of a dysfunctional family you already know how easily a small conflict can escalate into an all-out battle. In the context of probate, an all-out battle could cost your beneficiaries a considerable amount both in terms of time and money. If you have additional questions or concerns about estate planning for the dysfunctional family, contact a trusted estate planning attorney.