Building an estate plan is an important process, often unfortunately filled with conflict among designated beneficiaries. Not only are you discussing with your partner how to divvy up your assets, but also deciding how and when to release funds to certain family members, determining who is “deserving” or not, and in some cases who is fit to raise your children in the event of your death. These are all very sensitive issues that must be addressed, but they need not be the source of frustration or conflict.
The most important aspect of conflict resolution
In order to avoid spousal conflict during estate planning, you should work through your disagreements like you do other parts of your marriage: Compromise.
Compromise is absolutely necessary in getting what both of you want for your estate plan. Patience and understanding are even more valuable in this process. Like any other marital disagreement, you must hear each other’s side and respect the other’s opinion. Recognize the other’s concerns, address them, and come to a compromise that will satisfy both of you.
Common sources of conflict in estate planning
Some of the most intense discussions you may have with your spouse will come when planning your estate. Sensitive and important issues will arise, such as who is deserving of your assets, who is fit to make health related or financial decisions for you, who will be designated as guardian for any minor children, and how much is given to each beneficiary.
The legal guardians
Oftentimes there will be disagreements as to who is fit to raise your minor children in the case of your death. Your spouse may suggest her sister while you would rather see your brother raise your children. In this case, remember to address concerns and come to a compromise. You should both agree to act in the best interest of the children. Therefore, just because one of you prefers someone different doesn’t mean that person should raise your kids. Make the case as to what is best for the children. Perhaps your brother is more financially stable whereas her sister has yet to settle on a job or in a permanent residence. Therefore, your case as to what is best for the children can be made clear without taking a stab at her sister’s ability to raise your children (even if that is really the underlying issue).
Children from previous marriage
Another common source of conflict is children from previous marriage. Perhaps your wife wants to leave her son from a previous marriage some of the assets, but you think he should receive nothing. Try to come to a compromise by suggesting he get something of sentimental value instead of a monetarily valuable asset. Be sure you explain you feel her son would especially appreciate this asset because of its meaning.
Consider Alternative Professionals for Help
Remember that your attorney is not a mediator or therapist. When planning your estate, it is useful to work out your issues with your spouse before heading to the attorney’s office. This way you can handle everything appropriately and give ample time to discussing critical issues of importance to each of you. Then, when you arrive at your attorney’s office, there will be no need for argument because everything will be decided upon. No time will be wasted and you can get right down to your estate planning.
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