Brown Borkowski & Morrow


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Estate planning considerations involving estranged families

Leaving assets and property to heirs can be a complicated process, especially if you have considerable wealth. Yet, it can become even more challenging if family members are estranged from one another. Estrangement from a child, siblings or other family members often has significant implications for estate planning.

Explain your motives

If you decide to leave assets in unequal proportions, use the estate planning process as an opportunity to talk to your children and other beneficiaries and offer your reasons for doing so. By explaining what you’re doing, your family won’t expect an equal split upon your death. Anyone in disfavor can also plead their case, offering an opportunity for reconciliation or future modifications.

Even if your relationships don’t change in the future, you can avert ill will by discussing your intentions with family members. Nasty and expensive fights, sometimes resulting in litigation, can occur after someone’s passing. Children may believe that their siblings persuaded their parents to leave more or all their assets to them. This situation can lead to one or more individuals suing for what they feel is their rightful inheritance, challenging the will by claiming undue influence.

Establishing your estate plan

Focusing on your assets is an essential aspect of any estate. Your wealth is yours to leave as you wish, yet you must think out a sound plan. You have many different alternatives for leaving assets to children and other beneficiaries. Various types of trust, including creating a generation-skipping trust(GST) for one or more grandchildren, can be viable options to pass on your wealth.

Estates are fluid, so if you reconcile with more or more family members, you can always change the terms. If you do decide to make changes, however, be sure to discuss them with your family to avoid any unpleasant surprises.