While nobody wants to think about death or disability, creating an estate plan is one of the most valuable gifts we can give our loved ones, although they may not realize it at the time. When considering estate planning, many people’s thoughts turn toward issues like probate court, asset protection, and estate taxes. While estate planning does address these concerns, it is also a process that can help to pass down your legacy and preserve family harmony once you’re gone.
While many of us believe our loved ones to be reasonable adults who care for one another, it is important to remember that the loss of a family member or friend is a deeply painful and challenging situation. During times of stress and upset, our loved ones do not always react calmly and rationally.
An estate plan is a comprehensive set of tools that you can use to mediate or bypass potential family conflicts once you’re no longer around. While we can’t control our loved ones, we believe that family conflict can be mitigated through proper planning.
Common Causes of Conflict
While there are many potential sources of conflict once a loved one passes away, there are a few common triggers, including:
- Medical and end-of-life care decisions.
- Burial and funeral arrangements.
- Division (and distribution) of assets (and sentimental belongings).
- Naming of representatives (to serve in important roles in settling of the estate).
At Guttman Law, we believe the simplest way to avoid family conflict is to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to plan for your estate. Over our many years of experience with estate plans and estate administration, we have encountered countless potential issues that laypersons or attorneys outside the field may not think to foresee.
Here are some best practices from the attorneys at Guttman Law for avoiding family conflict as a result of your plan (or lack thereof):
Communicate Clearly (and don’t avoid difficult conversations)
The simplest way to prevent conflict among your loved ones in the event of incapacity or death is to make sure they understand your wishes and know how to carry those wishes out once you’re gone.
While it may be uncomfortable, discuss your preferences for end of life care, funeral arrangements, and where you would like your assets to go. This way your feelings about these important topics won’t come as a shock to your loved ones during an already difficult time.
Make Sure Your Plan Includes an Advanced Healthcare Directive
At Guttman Law we often tell people “not everyone needs a living trust and not everyone needs a will, but everyone does need an estate plan.” We believe a Healthcare Directive is one of the core estate planning documents every Minnesotan’s estate plan should include.
This document will allow you to appoint a trusted loved one to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are ever incapacitated and unable to do so yourself. Your healthcare directive will also serve as a set of guidelines for what kind of medical decisions you would like made on your behalf.
Document Your Burial/Funeral Wishes
Although it may feel morbid, making advanced arrangements for your burial and funeral will create peace of mind for your loved ones knowing that things will be handled according to your wishes.
Create a Personal Property List
A personal property list is perhaps one of the easiest estate planning steps you can take! A personal property list is simply a document where you list out your personal belongings (particularly those with high sentimental value) with a description and specify who you would like to receive each item. You can create this document on your own at any time and it does not require notarization.
Keep in mind that your loved ones may be more likely to argue over your sentimental belongings than money. While one dollar is as good as the next, items that hold special meaning to you and your loved ones are precious.
Schedule a Family Estate Planning Review Meeting
The attorneys at Guttman Law recommend scheduling an estate plan review meeting and inviting your loved ones who should be aware of your plans and wishes (at our firm we offer this as a complimentary meeting to our clients).
At this meeting our attorneys will provide your loved ones with a high level overview of your planning documents and make sure they know who to call if they need help implementing your plan in the future.
Proper Planning Helps to Avoid Conflict
While not all conflicts can be foreseen and prevented, we believe that many family disagreements can be avoided through proper estate planning. Your estate plan is a toolbox that gives your loved ones access to the tools they need to take care of you and settle your estate when you need them to.
As estate planning attorneys, we are privileged to work with clients while they are taking proactive, strategic steps to plan for their future. If you would like to schedule a complimentary review of your existing estate planning documents or begin planning for your estate for the first time, contact our team at (612) 431-1600 or click here.