Causes of a Family Feud After You Die and What to Do About It

What to Include In Your Estate Plan to Avoid a Will Contest or Claim

When creating an estate plan with an attorney, there are certain things to include that may help avoid a conflict when you pass. If you don’t have a valid will or trust in place your estate could be at risk for a contest or claim within your family. Margaret Barrett, estate plan attorney, discusses ways to prevent any contest against your will and that your assets are distributed to your wishes.

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What You’ll Learn From This Video

  • Why estate plan documents that are unclear or incorrect could be contested

  • How to avoid any conflict among your heirs over your estate

  • When to include beneficiary designations in your will


Margaret Barrett: Family feuds over your estate are getting more common all the time, whether your estate is big or small. Today, I am going to cover two causes of an estate plan dispute that are caused by your estate plan documents and what you can do about them. First, the quality of your estate plan documents. If your estate plan documents are unclear or incorrect, that can definitely cause a fight amongst your heirs about what you really wanted. We see this most often in do-it-yourself or online wills that are either unclear or they don’t cover enough situations or they go into too much detail. But this can also happen with attorney-drafted wills, especially if the attorney does not focus on estate planning. There are a couple of things you can do to ensure you have high-quality estate planning documents. First, hire an attorney who focuses on estate planning as a primary practice area. You want your attorney to be proactive and ask you lots of questions about what you might want to happen in different situations, even if those situations are pretty unlikely. Once you have your estate planning documents in order, you will want to check in with your attorney and review your situation at least every three years to make sure that your documents stay up to date for changes in life and changes in the law. Next, your asset titling and beneficiary designations need to line up with your estate plan documents. It’s actually not enough to have all your documents in place if your assets aren’t titled right and your beneficiary designations aren’t correct so that they align with your wishes spelled out in your will or trust. Otherwise, your money may not go where you want and confusion, fighting, and even litigation may result. For example, if you name one child joint owner on your checking account, your family may fight after you’re gone about whether you really wanted all that money to go to the joint owner or you just named them for convenience only and the money should really be shared amongst all the heirs. To minimize the chance that your assets and beneficiary designations will undermine your estate plan, make sure to work with an attorney who will give you clear and thorough written instructions on how assets will be titled and how beneficiary designations will be made and provide support to help you get those done. And make sure you do follow the attorneys instructions. Also, if you do end up naming a child as a joint owner on any of your assets, make sure your attorney understands and documents your wishes for if you want that money to go to that child when you’re gone or if you are naming them for convenience purposes only. If you want to learn more about how you can minimize the chance of a family feud and maximize the chance that your wishes will be fulfilled, give us a call today, and we will be happy to tell you more.

Author Bio

Margaret Barrett is the Founder and Owner of Safe Harbor Estate Law, a Saint Paul, MN, estate planning law firm she founded in 2013. With almost 15 years of combined experience in litigation and Minnesota estate law, she is dedicated to representing clients in a wide range of estate law matters. Her practice areas include estate planning, asset protection, elder law, and more.

Margaret received her Juris Doctor from the William Mitchell College of Law and is a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association and the Ramsey County Bar Association.

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