There’s no such thing as a good time for a family fight, but one of the worst is after a death. In a recent Ameriprise Financial survey of 2,700 people, 25 percent said an inheritance caused disagreement or tension within the family.
Here’s how to keep the peace.
Put your wishes in writing: “The most important strategy for avoiding a family feud at your death is to have proper estate planning documents in place that were drafted by an estate planning attorney,” says Gregory Black, a partner with Mazars USA, in Manhattan. A will documents your intentions with regards to your assets and appoints fiduciaries who will carry out your wishes.
Consider family rivalries: Don’t leave a vacation house to be divided between two brothers that don’t get along. “Direct that the house be sold or leave it to the brother who enjoyed it the most and equalize the estate through other assets,” says Black.
Play tough: Use no-contest provisions in your documents. “If anyone contests your estate plan, they lose their inheritance,” says Mary O’Reilly, a partner in the Trusts and Estates Group at Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone in Mineola.
An insurance policy with a named beneficiary is an effective way of making a gift to someone that is not easily challenged, points out Albert Petraglia, of counsel in the Trusts, Estates & Taxation practice group at Rivkin Radler in Uniondale.
Manage expectations: Talk. Says Black, “Detailed discussions with your family about your plans will go a long way in creating harmony at your death. Make sure there are no surprises or disappointments.”