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Estate planning tips to help avoid family conflict

When a loved one passes away, those left behind are often very distressed. This is a time when emotions and tensions run high, and when conflict between family members in New Jersey can easily flare up. When it comes to estate planning, there are several tips that individuals and families can implement to offset the risk of family feuds. Doing so can make this challenging time far easier to weather for all involved.

One common mistake that people make within their estate plan is to select the wrong person to act as executor of their estate. For example, many families will select the oldest child to handle these matters, even though that individual may have a long history of contention with his or her spouse or other family members. Giving that party control over the estate can lead to a great deal of tension and resentment among surviving family members, and can even lead the parties to head to court to resolve certain conflicts. A better approach is to choose a more level-headed family member or even an unrelated but trusted friend to handle the estate.

Another issue that many families face arises when a loved one fails to maintain a valid will. For example, many spouses name each other as the sole heir within their wills. When one spouse precedes the other in death, however, and there is no other heir named within the will of the surviving spouse, that will is considered invalid in the eyes of the law. The result can be the passing of assets to the deceased's next of kin, and a resulting legal battle between other family members. This is often not in line with the wishes of the individual who drafted the will.

When preparing one's estate planning documents, it is important to take the time to consider how and why any debate might arise between those left behind. In many cases, it is possible to avoid these types of conflict by carefully structuring a comprehensive estate plan. However, it is also important to review that plan from time to time, in order to ensure that the provisions laid out within are still in line with one's wishes. A New Jersey family law attorney can assist in the preparation and review of these documents, and can also provide advice on the various estate planning options available.

Source: Forbes, "Family Feud! 6 Stories Of Problematic Estate Planning", Kristin Appenbrink, Feb. 19, 2015

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