Kids: Don’t Fight!

Sibling rivalryMany people think sibling feuds only occur when we are young. In some cases this is true, but for some siblings this feud can continue into adulthood, tearing families apart. Caring for an ill parent or settling their estate once they have passed can start a feud or add to an already existing one. When parents divide their assets to their children, they don’t expect such fights to occur, but it can be the case.

A recent Law Depot article, titled "Estate Planning: 4 Things Siblings Feud Over," compiled four items that commonly cause sibling fighting in estate planning, as well as some ideas to prevent fights from happening:

  1. No Healthcare Directive and Power of Attorney
  2. No Last Will and Testament
  3. Lack of Communication
  4. Wrong Executor

A parent who falls ill can create stress, particularly when they require extended hospital care—and it is worse if their situation turns critical and they are not able to state any wishes for their continued care. Without a Healthcare Directive or Power of Attorney, loved ones must decide tough issues on their own, which can cause hard feelings when siblings do not come to an agreement.

If your parents both pass away without a Last Will and Testament, it can create a state of chaos for those left to deal with the aftermath. The distribution of family heirlooms and other family possessions can be fuel for tempers and fighting between siblings. Parents need to create a Last Will and Testament and specify who gets what.

The original article warns that in some instances having a Last Will and Testament simply does not keep the kids from feuding. Parents may give one child a precious family heirloom or more money because they were their sole caregiver, which creates hard feelings among the other siblings. Parents should speak to their children about their will so they understand why these decisions were made, which allows everyone a chance to discuss an equitable resolution.

When creating a Last Will and Testament, parents will appoint an executor to distribute the assets of their estate per the provisions of their will. If one child is appointed executor with the power to make decisions, it can create stress among siblings. The original article suggests that parents can add a clause in their will that decisions cannot be made without a majority vote. This keeps the family member who is the executor in check so there is no way to abuse that authority. Parents can also select a third party as their executor.

Blood is thicker than water, and having the entire family working together with a critically ill parent is the best way to face a very difficult and already trying situation. Make sure that your parents’ estate planning documents are up-to-date so that you can eliminate fighting and focus on your parents when they need you most.

Reference: Law Depot (September 24, 2014) "Estate Planning: 4 Things Siblings Feud Over"

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