It is very common for siblings to argue after a parent dies, especially if those siblings must divide up the assets of an estate without the guidance of a Will in place. However, these disputes can be completely avoided with a little planning. In fact, today we'll discuss 9 ways to avoid or resolve an estate battle and how your estate attorney in Raleigh can support you through the process.
Pre-Plan for Success with your Estate Attorney in Raleigh
1. Create an Estate Plan
A little pre-planning goes a long way to avoid an estate battle amongst siblings. Therefore, your Estate Attorney in Raleigh encourages everyone to create a Will that gives specific instructions as to who receives what when they die. These instructions can and should include everything from who is to manage the family business to who inherits the house and who is going to get grandma's fine china. Furthermore, by thinking ahead, you can have conversations with each of your children so they are involved in the decision-making process such that any dispute would have already been laid to rest.
While the creation of an estate plan is always a good idea, it's equally important to review and update an estate plan following major life events such as the birth of a grandchild or the death of a beneficiary. Your estate attorney in Raleigh can easily make modifications to your estate plan once it's been created.
2. Give Directives
In the case of the family home, parents don't have to designate one family member. In fact, as part of the estate planning process, parents can give directions that the family home (or any piece of real estate owned by the decedent) be sold and that the proceeds be divided evenly between siblings. Your estate attorney in Raleigh can walk you through how to add specific directives to your Will.
Parents can also choose to leave a child out of the Will completely. While there may be some hurt feelings, this decision is legally permissible as there are no rules on disinheriting a child. If you plan to go in this direction, you should consider discussing or explaining why you're leaving the child out of the Will.
4. Open a Trust
Another way to avoid or resolve an estate battle between siblings is to use a trust to specify property dispositions after death. Parents can actually make a revocable trust that can be changed at any time up until death as long as the grantor (the parent who created the trust) remains competent.
5. Create Joint Accounts
One thing to consider as you're purchasing assets or property or opening bank accounts is to add a child to the account. When the parent passes away, those assets will automatically go to the child. Rather than causing conflict between siblings, those determinations have already been made.
6. Designate a Non-Sibling Executor or Trustee
One of the best ways to avoid a dispute among siblings after a parent dies is to use a non-sibling executor or trustee of the estate. This person should have no gain in any decisions regarding property or asset distribution, so they can think clearly without the presence of all the emotions that often cause distress when dividing up an estate.
No Will? Your Estate Attorney in Raleigh Can Help
If your parents did not plan ahead in the form of an estate plan or Will, your estate attorney in Raleigh can still help you keep the peace between siblings. We recommend these approaches.
7. Use a Mediator
Dividing up simple assets isn't usually a problem. However, when we sense that there's going to be a problem involving the family business or the distribution of real estate, your estate attorney in Raleigh may suggest using a professional mediator. A mediator will bring all the siblings and/or stakeholders together to reach a consensus on key elements of a decedent's assets.
8. Liquidate Assets
Another option to avoid or resolve any disagreements between siblings, especially when those siblings cannot agree is to sell all the assets such that the proceeds can be evenly divided.
9. Defer to an Independent Fiduciary
Oftentimes, even when a child has been appointed as the executor of an estate, they will decline and choose to defer to an independent fiduciary instead. This person can be another person in the family (although if the fiduciary is another sibling, they must formally decline the appointment), an attorney, your CPA, or the bank's trust department. It's important to note that the should be enough money in the estate to pay for this service should you choose to defer to an independent fiduciary.
Hire an Estate Attorney in Raleigh to Avoid Disputes between Siblings
Sometimes disputes between siblings can't be avoided. As such, we encourage you to seek the counsel of a qualified estate attorney in Raleigh to guide you through the process of distributing assets of an estate. If steps are not taken before the death of a parent, there are still several strategies we can use to minimize conflict. Contact our legal team for more information.