Understanding Family Dynamics in Estate Planning

   When a new acquaintance discovers that I am an attorney, they will frequently ask what area of law I practice. My standard reply is that I do estate planning, probate and trust administration, and that it is the sort of stuff that would make for very boring TV drama.  That is true 90% of the time; the role of a competent estate planner should be to facilitate the transfer of wealth from one generation to another in the most efficient manner possible from a tax and cost standpoint.

   Then there is the other 10% of my cases, where there has been a long simmering animosity or distrust between one or more siblings (or other beneficiaries) - what I call the “Mom-always-liked-you-best” syndrome.  Very often the presence of the parent was the only factor that was keeping things from becoming openly hostile, and now that is gone.  Sometimes it is not the estate or trust beneficiaries themselves that instigate the hostility; very often it will be the spouse of a beneficiary who is determined that their branch of the family or their children not get cheated out of what they perceive to be their share of the inheritance.

   Obviously, for someone who is contemplating how to best set up their estate plan (always a good idea regardless of your age) these are dynamics that must be taken into account. Where no conflict is anticipated, it is fairly customary to name the oldest child (or perhaps the mos ...

Want to read more?

Subscribe today!

Learn how to email this article to others