Caring for an ill parent or settling their estate once they have passed is an emotional time in a family and can start a feud or add to an already existing one if specific preventative measures are not taken. When parents divide their assets to their children, they don’t expect such fights to occur, but they do. Not all disagreements can be prevented, but with careful planning, following the advice of an Estate Planning Attorney, parents can try to avoid these issues.
Here are four things that commonly cause fights and advice on how to prevent them from happening.
- No Healthcare Directive and Power of Attorney
When a parent gets sick, it can be stressful, especially if they need to be hospitalized for an extended period. This can become more challenging if their situation becomes critical and they are unable to voice their healthcare or financial wishes. If a parent does not have a Healthcare Directive or Power of Attorney, their loved ones are forced to make the decisions for themselves. This can cause conflict between siblings if they are unable to agree on a resolution. In some circumstances, siblings have taken each other to court to fight for ‘their side’. This can cause a rift in their relationship, costly court fees, and lost time that instead should be spent by their parent’s side.
To avoid this conflict, parents should have their Healthcare Directive and Power of Attorney prepared:
- A Healthcare Directive specifies your wishes for medical treatments and allows you to appoint someone to carry out your wishes if there is ever a time when you are no longer able to communicate or provide consent
- A Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to look after your financial affairs, such as your property, while you are incapacitated
- No Will
If both parents pass away without a Will, a family can be thrown into chaos. This can cause fights between siblings if they want the same thing or can’t agree on how to equally divide the items.
Parents should create a Will and specify who gets what. They can identify items and give them as gifts to their children. Creating a Will not only ensures your loved ones are looked after, but it decreases the chance of siblings fighting over material possessions.
- Lack of Communication
In some cases, having a Will is not enough to stop feuds from occurring. A lot of times, parents don’t discuss their Will with their children (as it can be uncomfortable talking about money or their mortality). However, this lack of communication can cause more problems between siblings because it is too late to hear their parents’ reasoning.
Parents should communicate with their children about their Will so they are aware of the contents and can have an open discussion.
- Wrong Personal Representative/Executor
A Personal Representative/Executor will distribute the assets Personal Representative/Executor. Since the Personal Representative/Executor has the power to make decisions, it can create some tension between siblings. Arguments can arise because they may feel jealous that their sibling is the Personal Representative/Executor or that their sibling is abusing their power and not carrying out their responsibilities.
Often parents can select a third party as their Personal Representative/Executor. This can help alleviate tension between siblings as the Personal Representative/Executor is impartial and has no personal interest in the estate.
Every situation is different and sometimes feuds and disagreement cannot be avoided even with careful planning and the best intentions. As always, I recommend a lawyer in the state in which you reside prepare these papers, so there are no legal issues when the time comes for them to be implemented. If you live in the Daytona Beach, Florida area, call my office for a free consultation.