Chipman Mazzucco Emerson LLC

Minimizing potential issues with family dynamics and estates

In a perfect world, proactive Connecticut parents or grandparents with high-net-worth estate planning needs would have their wishes respected by designated heirs or beneficiaries when they pass. Unfortunately, the reality is that squabbling siblings, spendthrift heirs and antagonistic step-relatives can sometimes complicate matters and contribute to legal headaches or costly court battles.

One of the more common issues with family dynamics and estate planning is sibling rivalries. This potential problem may be minimized if a trust creator names an impartial corporate trustee instead of allowing one sibling to set limits for the others. A letter of intention can also be created to explain any disparities with who gets what. Some estate plans even include stipulations that heirs will be disinherited if they sue to deter legal fights.

A letter explaining intentions can also come in handy with blended family situations, especially if children from first and second marriages are treated differently when it comes to their inheritances. Another option with blended families is the creation of a family foundation to encourage everyone to work together on philanthropic causes. If there's the possibility that heirs will make bad decisions with assets, a lawyer may suggest setting up a trust to protect family wealth. A trust can also be written in a way that controls the spending or behavior of certain heirs with clauses specific to unique issues, such as a grown child's drug or alcohol problems.

No matter what type of family dynamics may be involved, an estate planning lawyer is likely to recommend that anyone with substantial assets maintain clear communication and transparency. With documentation, an attorney can include precise language along with a letter of intent so all decisions are fully explained. A lawyer might also recommend including results from a psychological evaluation to prevent claims of incompetence if an heir questions estate provisions.

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