Disagreement between family members are common sometimes they are short lived and sometimes they go on for years. I have seen many examples of a family member getting ill or passing which becomes the catalyst of turning a family disagreement into a family feud. Everyone over the age of 18 by taking the time to do some estate planning one can reduce the risk of family feuds.
Family conflicts after the passing of a family member are more intense and difficult to resolve because the person who held the family together or would have been able to resolve the issue has passed. It would have been their decision or their opinion that is now left unknown or only to speculate about. This uncertainty mixed with grief is a breeding ground for a family feud.
Estate disputes are often caused by not knowing the intentions of the deceased or family members proceeding with a dispute aware that they are going against the wishes of the deceased. These issues are more than preventable with a little foresight.
Almost everyone knows that having a will is important yet I am often surprised by the people I met who have just not gotten around to doing it. They are not just young single people with little in assets but older couples with large land holdings and assets. By not having a will you are allowing your assets to be divided by litigation instead of by your wishes. This can often lead to bizarre or unfair results feeding the flames of a family dispute.
To prevent your estate from being distributed according to statue drafting and executing a will is necessary. However, drafting or preparing deficient or ineffective documents could unfortunately obtain the same unfortunate results.
There are more sophisticated methods of preventing a family estate feud but executing a Power of Attorney, a Personal Directive and a will drafted by an estate solicitor is a good beginning. A further step may have your Solicitor advice that you place assets in joint names, or set up trust, or corporation. Gifting assets before death may also make sense, though this comes with risk.
One can never eliminate the risk of a family feud but by good communication with your family, letting your family know your intentions and your wishes is important. Make a plan with your family this together with a well drafted and properly executed Power of Attorney, Personal Directive and Will can go a long way in reducing the risk at an family estate feud. There will never be a sure fire way to prevent a trouble maker from filing a court action but by estate planning and having your affairs in order you can minimize the risk.
David R. Francoeur