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September 15, 2015

Facing the Facts About Sibling Rivalries

It is ideal to believe that the vast majority of sibling rivalry situations end after adolescence.  However, in many situations, the rivalries do not end or they reappear after the passing of a parent.  It is in situations where heirs have strong disagreements about the inheritances that cause the most trouble for a decedent’s estate.  These disagreements can turn into long and costly lawsuits if the heirs are unable to settle their problems privately without court interference.  If you know that your children have or are capable of rivalry behaviors in the event of your passing, there are a few things you can do to prevent problems.

An example lies in the situation of musician Jimi Hendrix.  When Hendrix passed in 1970 without a will, his estate passed intestate.  In 2002, his father, Al Hendrix, passed and left the $80 million estate “under the sole control of one of the siblings.”  This caused a legal battle that only recently reached a tentative settlement between the sibling and a company affiliated with another sibling. 

There are two major tools that can help you win the battle against problems like the one Jimi Hendrix’s estate experienced: details and communication. 

Leave Detailed Instructions in Your Will

When it comes to jewelry and heirlooms and other family values, the best thing you can do is provide detailed instructions for each item.  A fight over very sentimental objects can run long and deep, and often the monetary value is not the most important factor.  Be sure that your will includes a list of every important item that needs to be distributed and decide to whom each object should go.  Because your wishes are clear and explicit, the likelihood of any hold ups due to sibling arguments is significantly lower. 

An experienced attorney can help you through this process and can determine which estate planning tools will accomplish your goals with the least confusion and cost.  An attorney can also provide a neutral review of your asset dispersion to ensure that no bias is indicated by your estate plan, if that is what you desire. 

Communicate Your Wishes

While it is never a pleasant topic to discuss, your wishes after death are important to convey to your family, especially your children.  If you communicate openly with your family about what you want to happen to your possessions after death, there is less likely to be any misunderstanding about what is best.  If your requests also match up with what you have put in your will, the position is even stronger and your children are not left to decide these things for themselves, lessening the amount of stress they may experience. 

Planning your estate is not an easy “one size fits all” process.  You will need personalized, compassionate, and skilled help determining which estate planning tools best fit your needs and desires.  For that help, call the Anderson Law Firm in Greenville. Our professionals can partner with you during the estate planning process, taking every painstaking detail into consideration.