Probate refers to the general administration of a decedent’s estate. It involves the paying off of a decedent’s debts and the distribution of his/her assets. While probate can run smoothly, we also know from experience that it can be frustrating and involve conflict and disputes between family members. This doesn’t always have to be the case, though, since there are a few things you can do to help prevent family squabbles.
Have a Quality Estate Plan in Place
A well-crafted estate plan can do wonders to keep the peace among remaining family members. The most important document within a plan that helps accomplish this is a last will and testament. This is because you can name the following in a will:
- A personal representative (or, “PR”), and
- The person or people that you want to distribute property to.
A PR is a person who administers a decedent’s estate. You can use your will to name a PR that you believe will be able to avoid conflict and responsibly resolve it if it does arise. Perhaps this is your oldest child or even a close family friend.
You can also use your will to name “beneficiaries,” or those people who will receive certain assets from your estate. You can leave specific assets to a beneficiary (for example, a piece of furniture or a particular bank account), or you can also name heirs who will receive the rest of your estate (that is, your estate minus any specific assets that you distribute). By naming beneficiaries, you direct any ill feelings that may arise during probate to yourself and not other living family members.
When you decide on your PR, you should inform the person and speak with him/her about the details of winding up your estate. During this discussion, state that you want the PR to communicate with all family members during probate. Regular communication will help prevent misunderstandings and/or feelings of ill will.
Proper communication should include the PR providing:
- Information about the steps to complete during probate,
- Family members notice on what is happening with the estate’s assets,
- Inventories of the estate, and
- Accountings of the expenses and distributions that are being made in the estate.
Speak With Your Family
If you want to help avoid conflict, tell your family members about your wishes. Let them know that you’d like them to act responsibly, gracious, and with forgiveness if a dispute does arise. Family members are often very emotional with the death of a loved one. These emotions can interfere with courteous behavior. Try and prevent this by presenting the issues that may arise, and ways to resolve them, before they actually do.
Contact The McWilliams Law Group for Help
The established California and Washington estate planning attorneys at the McWilliams Law Group help you prepare for the future today.
Our firm provides legal assistance with the following:
- Will drafting, execution and review
- Living Trusts
- Advance healthcare directives (living Wills)
- Powers of attorney
- Estate and gift tax issues
- Guardianships and conservatorships
- Choosing the appropriate executor and/or trustee
The skilled attorneys at our firm can help thoroughly analyze your estate and strategize the best means of transferring your assets, minimizing taxes, establishing guardianship, and supporting philanthropic causes. Contact us now and let us help protect your personal security, family, and legacy.