Family Dynamics Must Be Considered In Estate Planning.
By Myka Landry
Family dynamics are among the trickiest and most thought-provoking issues that must be considered when selecting a trustee or executor of one’s estate.
These dynamics can include everything from problem children, which we discussed in last month’s blog, to divorce situations, which we will talk about next month. But this month, we want to look at the broader topic of the entire family.
Even the closest of families face trying situations and decisions after a loved one passes away. That’s why we ask our clients to select a trustee or executor who they think is best suited to handle the emotional and trying job of administering an estate. Not only will this person have to deal with the business aspects of processing the estate, but they will have to be able to handle the different personalities involved and settle any conflicts that may arise.
I’d like to offer a few suggestions to help accommodate family dynamics when deciding on an executor or trustee of your estate:
Select the person you think could best handle your family’s dynamics, based on how they handle difficult issues in their life. Nobody provides instructions on how to deal with a sister who can’t stop crying or a brother who doesn’t want to sell the family home. Dealing with the family dynamics requires a great deal of skill and finesse.Don’t select a child because you want to show them your love. That should not be criteria when deciding on an executor or trustee.Avoid selecting someone who has an overbearing or manipulative spouse who could cause problems for the rest of the family.Suggest to your appointee that he or she reach out for help if family conflicts arise. Estate planning attorneys, financial advisors and other professionals can provide good guidance, as well as a different perspective. They will help your appointee get through the process with the least amount of conflict possible.Don’t be afraid to consider appointing an independent trust advisor to take the burden off the person you name as executor. This person can step in when disagreements come up to make sure your instructions are properly followed.
The bottom line is that an estate plan is designed to protect the person who is creating the plan – not the interests of other family members. As an estate planning attorney, my goal is to make sure these wishes are carried out even if they anger some members of the family.
These instructions and wishes need to be made as clear as possible so that everyone understands them and your executor or trustee can carry them out. When clearly stated, expensive court battles can be avoided.
As you can see, creating an estate plan is a complex situation. It’s best to consult a qualified estate planning attorney who can guide you through your family’s dynamics so your family will stay on friendly terms even after your death.