I Don’t Need an Estate Plan, My Family Gets Along

  • Post last modified:November 14, 2023

It’s common for people to assume estate planning is unnecessary if their family appears close-knit. They think their spouse, children, or other family will intuitively know how to fairly divide up assets after they’re gone. However, failing to create an estate plan because “my family gets along” can be a risky assumption that leads to preventable conflict down the road.

Hidden Tensions Can Surface

Even families that seem to get along wonderfully can encounter surprising disputes when the time comes to sort out a loved one’s estate. Small slights and power imbalances that were invisible during your lifetime often become exacerbated. Differing assumptions around intentions and fairness frequently fuel conflicts over finances and possessions. Grief can also prevent rational thinking and cooperation when tensions flare up.

Document Your Intentions Clearly

That’s why it’s so important not to let perceived family harmony be an excuse to avoid estate planning. Taking the time to thoughtfully document your wishes in legal documents like a will, trust, and beneficiary designations provides essential clarity for your family. It helps prevent guesswork and shields loved ones from the difficult position of having to divide up your assets equitably on their own.

Appoint Trusted Fiduciaries

Designating responsible fiduciaries in your estate plan can also ease family tensions tremendously during the settlement process. Naming a trusted executor in your will to guide the probate process or an objective third party trustee to administer your trust takes the burden off grieving family members. Appointing a guardian to care for minor children is another key fiduciary role to fill.

Establish Rules and Procedures

Estate plans that contain clear instructions, rules, and procedures help ensure your wishes are properly honored and prevent fighting among heirs, even those in close families. This includes delineating contingency plans if certain beneficiaries pass before you or structuring asset distribution to be fair and equitable among siblings.

Communicate Openly with Family Members

Rather than assuming everyone is on the same page, take time while you can still discuss your estate planning goals, values, and intentions openly with family members. Make your desires regarding inheritance, philanthropy, care of minors, or dependent relatives known.

Put Your Wishes in Writing With Comprehensive Planning

Don’t merely express your intentions verbally and hope family members retain them accurately. Be sure to enact those intentions through a comprehensive estate plan drafted with an attorney’s assistance. Relying on unstructured promises or assumptions leaves too much open for disagreement. Integrate estate planning into your financial, retirement, and life planning.

Protect Your Family’s Future With an Estate Planning Lawyer in California

There is nothing like having peace of mind when you are no longer here. Grief can make people change, so even if your family seems close, you can benefit from having an estate plan. Contact us for a free consultation to find out how we can help you specifically.