Avoiding Family Disputes After Your Death


 As we all know, disagreements among family members are a part of life.  Even the closest of families experience dustups every now and again, but most of us don’t like to think of them happening as a result of our deaths. In fact, avoiding family disputes is often one of the primary reasons to have a carefully drafted estate plan. It can be very helpful to identify (while you are alive and well) some situations that often lead to disputes so that you can try to prevent them. Here are some common reasons why disputes arise following a family member’s death, and some tips on how to avoid them from happening.


Surprise & Lack of Communication . . . The element of surprise is one of the most common situations leading to family disputes. Your family members may be upset if your assets are divided and handed down in a manner that is unexpected. One way to avoid this surprise (and any resulting hurt feelings) is to provide your family with a broad outline of how you plan to leave your property. It is best to do this while you are healthy and have the ability to explain your choices. Even if your family does not understand your reasoning, they will have time to digest the information and ask you any questions they may have.

 “Unfair” Disposition . . . This topic is certainly intertwined with surprise and lack of communication. Your family members may have preconceived notions of what they feel is a fair disposition of your assets and property upon your death. You, however, may feel otherwise. You may believe that certain family members are not entitled or ready to inherit certain property – despite what they may think. It is important to remember that it is your money and your property and you may leave it to whomever you choose. However, if you wish to avoid a situation where your family members become embroiled in a family dispute after you are gone, it is important to set expectations in advance. By doing so, it is more likely that family members (maybe begrudgingly) accept your wishes and refrain from arguing with each other.


 Bad Family Dynamics . . . Unfortunately, this is one area where you have little control. If your family members have issues with each other for whatever reason(s), disputes may be likely to arise upon your death. In this case, one thing you can do is plan for the possibility of a dispute. To do so, it is important to think about the relationships between your executors/trustees and the beneficiaries of your assets and property. In some cases, appointing co-trustees, particularly in blended families, may minimize the chance of conflict.  However, if the individuals chosen don’t work well together, serving together may instead increase the chance of arguments. Sometimes a neutral party or corporate trustee is the best choice. In thinking about whom to choose to administer your will and trust, see our post on Some Things to Consider When Choosing a Trustee and Executor.


A good estate planning attorney will be mindful of these factors and can help you structure your estate plan in an effort to minimize the risk of a family dispute.


Contact Loftus Law Offices, PLLC today to discuss your estate planning needs and to receive valuable guidance when making these tough decisions. We can be reached at 603-465-7178 and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

"Stop Arguing" image courtesy of Stuart Miles and www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net