Family & Heirs

Keeping Family Dynamics in the Estate Planning Equation

Celebrity estate disputes are tabloid mainstays. Michael Jackson, Tom Clancy, Prince, Casey Kasem and James Brown are among the growing list of stars remembered nearly as well for the ugly estate disputes that followed their passing as they are for their prolific careers.

While very few people have billion-dollar estates, any estate can lead to family feuds when family dynamics are left out of the estate planning equation. Even the closest of families can bicker on occasion, and the stress of losing of a loved one can bring up old arguments and resentments.

Below are some of the most common tension points in the estate settlement process and tips to alleviate some of the burden and stress for your surviving family members.

Executor of the Estate

Choosing the executor for your estate is an important decision. This person is responsible for managing the distribution of the assets within your estate and will, ideally, have a calming disposition to help mediate any potential disagreements. Estate owners frequently choose their spouse or one of their children, but complex family dynamics may make a neutral third-party a better option to act as executor.

Division of Assets

Many people plan their estates to divide assets equally among loved ones, thinking this is both fair and equitable. The reality, however, is rarely that cut and dry. For example, if you have three children, and one received more financial assistance from you through the years, is it still equitable to divide the remaining assets evenly between the three children, or are previous gifts taken into account? Work with your financial advisor and estate planning attorney to find the right option for your family’s unique dynamic.

Assets with Sentimental Value

Sentimental objects are often more likely to cause family strife than assets with great financial value. Is there a family ring passed down for generations? A guitar dad strummed around the campfire? Your wedding china set? Talking with your family about whether there are any items that have sentimental value for them may help calm any future feuds. You may also want to consider adding an addendum to your will detailing who receives specific items with sentimental value and why.

Guardianship of Minor Children

For parents with younger children, choosing a guardian is one of the most difficult decisions you make during the estate planning process – and it has the most lasting implications. Surviving family members may have disparate views on who is the best choice for this responsibility. You have to do what you think is best for your children, and considering family dynamics can help you feel confident that your children will maintain a strong, healthy relationship with your family as a whole.

No two families are alike, and evaluating your family’s unique dynamic is an integral part of keeping the peace during a very difficult time. To begin the estate planning process, contact a Fifth Third Bank financial advisor.

Fifth Third Bank does not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax adviser or attorney before making any decisions or taking any action based on this information. This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute the rendering of tax or legal advice.

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