by Scott A. Makuakane, Counselor at Law, Est8Planning Counsel LLLC
- 1 part No estate plan established
- 1 part No family discussion
- Mix vigorously, bringing it to a boil. Add unexpected ingredients to totally complicate things…
- Serves an entire family… to its end.
A recent survey conducted by Chicago-based BMO Wealth Management confirmed that most Americans do not have estate plans, and those who do, do not discuss them with their loved ones. For a variety of reasons, both of these facts generate many avoidable problems that undermine family harmony.
According to the BMO survey, 52 percent of Americans do not have a will, much less a revocable living trust-based estate plan. Thus, most families must grapple with things like court proceedings and uncertainty about what to do when a loved one dies or becomes incapacitated. The survey also found that many of the people who do have estate plans do not discuss them with their children or other family members. This can result in surprises that erupt into family battles.
One of the most significant findings of the survey was that 40 percent of the time, beneficiaries feel that their parents’ estate plans were unfair. And when children believe that their parents’ estate plans are unfair, you have the basic ingredients for a fight that will only serve to enrich a small army of lawyers.
Avoiding litigation between your children after you are gone can be as simple as having an estate plan and then discussing your plan with them. If your children understand the thinking behind your estate plan, they may not agree with it, but they will be less likely to challenge it after you are gone.
Often, having a family meeting about your estate plan facilitated by an experienced mediator can bring potential problems to light and also resolve them, thereby avoiding future conflict. There are many organizations and qualified mediators who can assist in this process. One organization is The Mediation Center of the Pacific (www.mediatehawaii.org), which provides “high-quality mediation and dispute resolution services that are affordable and accessible” (see Generations Magazine’s Apr/May 2017 issue).
So, remember that having an estate plan will be a tremendous help to your loved ones as life’s inevitable transitions occur. Making sure that your family understands and supports your plan will stem bad feelings and future legal battles.
SCOTT MAKUAKANE, Counselor at Law
Focusing exclusively on estate planning and trust law.