Every family has its own dynamics and while the parents are alive, they tend to mediate the arguments and personalities involved. But when they are gone, all too many families incur needless and sometimes irreparable damage to their family unit. It could be fighting over the estate assets, arguing over administration issues or even the outside influences of an in-law. Whatever the cause, it can have a long-lasting negative impact on your family. But there is hope.
Six Factors To Consider:
1. Pre-Planning: Many of the problems that arise can be minimized or eliminated with some early planning by parents. Parents usually have a pretty good idea about what they envision happening when they pass away. But unfortunately, parents don't always share their vision with their children before it is too late. If your parents are in their older years, take the initiative to ask them some poignant questions. If you ask, most parents are more than happy to tell you their opinions. Start with basic questions and work your way into more specific areas. Their responses may surprise you, but they will definitely enlighten you.
2. Personal Instructions To Family: I am a big proponent of written instructions to your loved ones. These can include everything from burial and funeral preferences, to whom they want to receive the family coin collection or specific pieces of jewelry. I am always amazed at how these simple notarized letters of instruction can help children to avoid arguments and preserve lasting memories of their family fun times.
3. Coordinated Decisions: By keeping all relevant family members in the decision loop, you can make sure that everyone is on the same page and understands what you are trying to accomplish. If children are allowed to participate and add their opinions in an open discussion about estate plans and administration, they are more likely to go along with the plan even if they disagree with certain aspects. This is a great way of allowing your family to help coordinate your estate efforts and avoid disgruntled family members.4. Outlaw Influences: Every family has their children's spouses (aka - The Outlaws) involved to some extent in the decisions that are made by each child. In most situations, these individuals are cherished members of the family and realize that it is not their position to interfere with a spouse's family arrangements. But occasionally personalities collide and other family members feel bullied or "influenced" by an outspoken outlaw. If this is the case, it is best to suggest that you involve only the natural children and exclude all "outlaws" from the direct decision-making process that will affect the rest of the family.
5. Fair Asset Sharing: A great way to avoid hard feelings is to draft written instructions for the family about personal property distributions. First try to handle sentimental items, like family jewelry, gun collections or artwork. If you know that one of your children had a direct interest in those items, make sure that they receive them. Be sure to have all children agree on a fair family value for each item and if they choose to keep it, that value will be deducted from their fair share of the estate totals. These special items should all be written down and have the listing notarized.
The next step should be written instructions that you ask your children to follow after you are gone. Instruct them to arrange a family weekend and on the first day, inventory the remaining personal property items. Once itemized, have them place fair values on all items. Then have each sibling select one item at a time beginning with the oldest to the youngest, then reverse the order to be fair. The value of the items selected should be deducted from their fair share of the estate totals.
Lastly, once the family has selected all the items they would like, have an estate sale or donate the remaining items to local charity. If they take these steps, no one should feel slighted and everyone should have an equal chance at preserving items that they want, need or have sentimental value.
6. Communication: As with any group interaction, communication is the key. If one child is really good at coordinating events, ask them to take the lead and get everyone involved. If they all feel that they can openly communicate with you and each other, little problems will never get big and small arguments will be resolved quickly. It is easier said than done, but always encourage communication.
Summary: If you follow these six steps, or even a majority of them, your family may disagree on certain things, but they will always find a way to keep the family together and remain one... even after you are gone.
To discover additional estate, financial and income tax strategies, check out my blog or download your FREE Wealth Expansion Kit by clicking here. The first step to creating wealth is knowing where you are and then charting a path that will enhance your financial strengths and correct your weaknesses.
About the Author:
Keith Maderer is a financial expert and has been a investment and tax adviser in the Western New York area for over 30 years. He is the owner of SENIOR Financial and Tax Associates and the founder of the Maderer Foundation, a private scholarship program.
Keith is also the author of "How To Get Your College Education For Less". Available on Amazon.com - ISBN No: 978-1-4538-2053-7.
You can get your FREE Wealth Expansion Kit, or check out his blog by visiting http://www.sftaweb.com