Chipman Mazzucco Emerson LLC

Avoiding family disputes when writing a will

Most people planning to have a will drawn up in Connecticut hope it will make things easier for loved ones left behind. But what might look good on paper could turn out to be a source of contention, resentment, legal wrangling, and bitter feuds between heirs. This sometimes happens when there's not enough time, effort, and thought put into making important decisions during the process of preparing a will and making estate plans.

It's common for people to choose executors based on family hierarchy (e.g., oldest sibling) or personal relationships (e.g., spouse, good friend). However, such individuals may not have the desire or skills necessary to take on the responsibilities that go along with this position, which is why it's recommended that a responsible, competent, ethical individual be named. Another option with estate planning is to appoint a corporate trustee or a professional fiduciary as executor.

Determining who will get personal property that may include cherished knickknacks, favorite childhood toys, or a fine china set in advance by keeping an updated list may minimize squabbles over "little things" that might mean a lot to certain family members. A clause can also be added to a will that allows the executor to sell disputed items if an agreement can't be reached over who gets them.

With larger estates, it's understandable to stagger cash disbursements over time so young heirs don't get lump cash sums they're not ready to handle - although tying up funds for too long with stipulations like having to wait for a surviving spouse to pass may create unnecessary resentment. Lastly, parents planning a will with unequal distributions may want to schedule a family meeting to explain their decisions to avoid lingering bitterness among heirs after they pass.

An estate planning attorney might recommend strategies that may minimize issues with the disbursement and distribution of assets and personal property. A lawyer can also help a client make necessary amendments to an existing will or trust if circumstances change. A living will and financial power of attorney are among the additional documents an attorney may recommend that a client consider during the estate planning process.

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