If you like to read footnotes to support what is stated in a blog post, you will not find any in this article. What you will find in this post are the questions to ask yourself to see if there is a good chance your beneficiaries will argue and fight over money when a loved one passes away. The questions below are designed to stimulate some soul-searching on your part before you talk with your estate planning attorney. Why is this important? Because fights in an estate settlement cause riffs in the family fabric that often cannot be repaired. Fights are also expensive, ugly and time consuming.
Probably the most obvious question to ask yourself is how well your children or grandchildren get along with each other? Is it just friendly differences between your beneficiaries or is it sibling war? Do your beneficiaries know one another? That last question is not a misprint. In today’s blended families, it is not uncommon to have beneficiaries that have never met one another. It seems easier to wage war when you do not know the other person.
Financially, are your beneficiaries doing reasonably well? Are they all roughly similar in terms of economic status? Is one or more of your beneficiaries living paycheck to paycheck or have heavy credit card debt, filed bankruptcy in the past or are considering it, have been divorced or frequently change jobs?
When your family gets together, and there are decisions to be made, how do they make that group decision? Do they make family decisions in a reasonable manner, with little or no bickering, or do they consistently decide in a haphazard or emotional way?
How trustworthy are your beneficiaries? Would you give your checkbook to any of your beneficiaries for safekeeping? Would you give any of your beneficiaries the key to your safe deposit box? What about giving any of your beneficiaries your user name and password to your online checking account? How does that make you feel if you had to do so?
Do you regularly loan money to one or more of your beneficiaries? Do the other beneficiaries know that you do so, or is it likely the others will learn that you did so following your death? If you loaned money to a beneficiary who can work and does not have special needs, have they paid you back or are they paying you back? Do you want that beneficiary to be treated differently than the others?
Does it sound reasonable to you if one of your beneficiaries receives more of your estate because that beneficiary has helped you over a period of years, as you have gotten older? Are the other beneficiaries that have not helped you as much (possibly for good reason such as they live far away from you) okay with receiving less? Have you discussed an uneven distribution with all of your beneficiaries?
For your own reasons, do you think you will disinherit or give very little to one or more beneficiaries? Is your reason that the beneficiary is well-off and does not need the money?
Are there several years difference in age between you and your younger spouse who is not the mother (or father) of your children? Are your children nearly the same age as your new spouse?
Finally, what does it feel like to you when you consider that your beneficiaries may quarrel over the property and money you will likely have when you are gone?
If you hesitate to answer any of the questions above, or if more than one of the above applies to you, your beneficiaries may quarrel over your estate when you are gone. There are lawful techniques to prevent your beneficiaries from upsetting the peaceful settlement of your estate when you are gone.
To find out more about how to keep peace between your beneficiaries when you are gone, please call us at 813-852-6500. You may be relieved to know there are lawful ways to keep the peace when you are not here to do so.