ESTATE PLAN: Plan for a fight

2013-03-02T08:54:00Z ESTATE PLAN: Plan for a fightChristopher W. Yugo Times Business Columnist
March 02, 2013 8:54 am  • 

Q: What is the best way to keep my family from fighting over my will? Should I put something to my will that disinherits any family member who causes problems? Should I just leave everything to one person and let him distribute everything?

A: People fighting over the will can sometimes be a concern. Even in families, not everyone gets along. I've seen it a number of times over the years. Fortunately, families fighting over an estate has been the exception rather than the rule.

The best way to keep the family from fighting over your estate is to plan. Let's face it, if the kids don't get along while you are around, it seems pretty unlikely that they will rally together after your death. I'm not saying it won't happen, but I wouldn't count on a big turnaround. If mom can't keep them together, it's unlikely anyone can.

So how do you plan? Well first, I would have a discussion with your attorney. Tell him about your concerns. Don't hold back because he needs the information to advise you properly. If he doesn't know about a problem, it's going to be hard for him to plan for it.

Once you have discussed your concerns with your attorney and he has provided you with options, pull the trigger. Don't wait too long thinking about it. Give it all the thought it needs but then commit to doing something. Time isn't always your friend.

Once you have committed to the plan and it's in place, stick to it. Don't start second guessing or fail to follow through. If you commit half way, chances are you are going to have a fractured plan and things won't work out the way you want them to. Leaving the kids a mess isn't going to solve the problem.

Also, avoid the appearance of undue influence. Meet with your attorney without the kids being present. Don't let your daughter sit in the attorney's office with you. Even if she keeps her mouth shut, it may look suspicious to a sibling looking for a reason to fight.

A provision that disinherits someone who challenges the will may sound like a good idea but it isn't likely to work. A provision like that is called an "in terrorem clause" and Indiana doesn't recognize them. An in terrorem clause won't invalidate a will, but it won't get you too far either.

Finally, I'm not sure what leaving everything to one person for distribution will accomplish except for leaving her a mess to deal with. Not only will that person have to deal with the angry siblings, she will likely have gift tax issues.

Christopher W. Yugo is an attorney in Crown Point. Address questions to Yugo in care of The Times, 601 W. 45th Ave., Munster, IN 46321 or to Yugo’s information is meant to be general in nature. Specific legal, tax, or insurance questions should be referred to your attorney, accountant, or estate-planning specialist.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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