Prince is just the latest in a long line of celebrities who have failed to properly plan their estate. But it’s not just celebrities who mess up or brush aside estate planning. Statistics show that at least half of adults in the United States don’t have an estate plan.
Lawyers across the country continue to report an increase in estate litigation. There’s no perfect solution to solving this problem, but a great place to start is with an estate planning attorney that you trust. By having an honest conversation about your family dynamics and potential areas of conflict, you can create a plan that will ensure you leave a positive legacy.
Every family is different, but below are several important principles when it comes to keeping your estate conflict-free:
1. Have a Last Will & Testament: Without a Will, the government controls how your estate is administered. The potential for family conflicts multiply if you fail to create a Will.
2. Consider a Living Trust: If you consider an estate challenge to be a serious issue, a Living Trust can provide more privacy than a Last Will & Testament.
3. Provide Clarity: Whether you use a Will, Trust or other estate planning tools, be clear about what your intentions are. Make sure there is clarity in the language, and that your heirs won’t have to interpret the meaning of anything. Questions of interpretation generally lead to conflict.
4. Communicate: Having a family meeting goes a long way towards settling any potential disputes and conflicts. Putting everyone on notice as to who the Executor will be and how certain property will be divided is a key to avoiding conflicts.
5. Consider a Third Party as Executor or Trustee: If you know your kids will argue, consider a neutral party to ensure your estate is administered fairly.
6. Don’t Forget Sentimental Items: Make sure items of sentimental value are not overlooked. Sometimes, it’s the smallest items that cause the biggest conflicts.