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How to prevent siblings from fighting over an estate

On Behalf of | May 22, 2023 | Probate & Estate Planning |

If you don’t make a clear estate plan in Pennsylvania, your descendants may fight over the estate. You might want to cover all aspects of your property in your estate plan and communicate your general ideas with your beneficiaries to prevent conflict after your death. One way to prevent legal challenges is to have your will drafted by an attorney. Wills which are drafted by an attorney in Pennsylvania enjoy a presumption that they are valid and enforceable, and this cuts down on potential disputes.

Choose a non-sibling as your executor of estate

Another way to reduce the possibility of tension between your children after your death is to choose a non-relative as an executor. There are even companies that provide professional executor services, for a fee. The same goes for choosing trustees.

Use probate avoidance strategies

You might prevent siblings from fighting if you structure your assets to transfer directly to their beneficiaries after your death. This makes it more difficult for others to challenge the bequest. Common estate planning strategies for avoiding probate include trusts, transfer-on-death deeds, payable-on-death accounts, transfer-on-death accounts, and joint ownership. Be careful, though, of the tax consequences, and consult an attorney before you make estate planning decisions solely in an attempt to avoid probate. You might give up your rights to assets before you are ready.

Discuss your plans with your children

It could help reduce tension if you share how you want to divide the estate with your children – knowing what to expect after your death prevents the element of surprise. Unexpected decisions could trigger fights when emotions are already high.

Tips for siblings

If you’re struggling to divide household items that your parent owned, you could each take turns choosing an item. The eldest could choose first or you could roll a die to select the order of choosing. Another strategy is to write the names of the disputed items on a piece of paper and add them to a container. Each person would take turns grabbing a slip of paper. You could meet with a mediator to negotiate any disagreements. Mediators help people negotiate difficult situations, such as estate division. There’s no obligation to come to a binding decision through mediation.

When an estate plan is clear and thorough, most siblings don’t fight over it. An experienced estate planning attorney can draft an appropriate document such as a will or trust which will comply with and carry out your wishes even if your beneficiaries are inclined to squabble.