When you create instructions for your estate, your children will probably be your main focus. Most parents want to pass along property that has emotional significance to their children while also providing them with financial support.
You may imagine that your children will be an important support for each other after you die, but the opposite could be true. Your death could be the catalyst that ultimately dissolves the bond between siblings. Estate issues have torn apart many families over the years, and your well-intentioned plans could actually contribute to the tension and friction in your family after your passing.
Joint property ownership is often frustrating
If you own a cabin where the kids enjoyed their childhood summers, you might like the idea of leaving it to all of your children jointly so that all of them and your grandchildren can enjoy the property.
The problem with joint ownership is that all owners may not treat one another with respect. One might end up doing all of the maintenance or creating burdens for the other co-owners. If your older children always picked on the youngest, that dynamic might persist even in property ownership. Holding a piece of real estate in trust for the family to use or selling it for them to split in the financial value may be a better option than naming them as joint owners.
Uneven inheritances can divide the family
When you leave far more property to some of the children than to others, you don’t just create a dispute between the ones who receive the most and the ones who received the least. You will also create pressure on all the other family relationships, as everybody will have an opinion about your decision and the behavior it prompts in your adult children.
If you intend to leave an uneven inheritance, it is better to be honest with your family about those intentions now so that you can help resolve the conflict about that decision while you are still alive. You can also explain yourself more clearly so that family members won’t feel like they have to take a side.
Open communication and careful planning can help you prevent your legacy from damaging the relationships among the people you love the most. Identifying common pitfalls in estate planning can help you avoid them for your own family.