Disputes between siblings often arise after a parent passes away, when it’s time to divide the assets within an estate. These disputes between family members can cause costly and prolonged legal proceedings. But with a little forethought and planning, these disputes can be avoided, or at least reduced greatly. Sibling disputes over a parent’s assets can be prevented by taking steps beforehand and developing a legally-binding estate plan. No matter if your estate is modest or exorbitant, every person can benefit from writing down their wishes for how they want their legacy to be distributed to future generations.
Parents can talk with their children now, express their wishes for their assets, and allow an opportunity for a discussion to be had. Parents can set up a trust, with a non-sibling as the trustee or executor, who distributes gifts as instructed when the time comes to do so. After a parent dies, the siblings can get help from a mediator, divide the proceeds once assets are liquidated, and defer to a fiduciary. By using a mediator, as a Montana elder law lawyer at Silverman Law Office, PLLC can attest, it can help negotiations between siblings go more smoothly while emotions are running high and they are in a state of grief.
Planning prior to death can address issues that tend to come up once a parent has died. One of the most impactful actions a parent can take is to establish a will that outlines which sibling is to receive which property from the estate. As the parent, you may have to ask yourself questions like, who would you want to inherit the house, compared to the business, or your more highly valuable items? Your answers to these questions will be what you write within your estate plan. Alternatively, a parent can state that the house is to be sold and proceeds evenly divided. If a parent prefers to leave a sibling out of the will entirely, that is legally allowed. There are no laws that dictate rules for disinheriting a child, but to avoid that sibling from contesting the will, consider adding an explanation in your estate plan as to why you chose to leave them out of the inheritance.
A parent can write a revocable living trust that can be updated at any point in their life prior to death, assuming they remain competent. Another way to prevent conflict is to place property in the joint name of a child and parent so that assets are given automatically to the child when the parent dies. As your lawyer can explain, this can be done for real estate, a bank account, or a brokerage account. To try and make things even more amicable, you can appoint a non-sibling as the trustee or executor, who does not have anything to gain from the choices made regarding asset property distributions.