It is often said that death can bring out the best or the worst in people. While you want to believe that your loved ones will honor your wishes after your death, you can never know exactly how they will react while grieving. A family member might want a special item to remember you by, or a relative who feels like he or she did not get enough in the will could possibly take matters into his or her own hands. Like most Californians, you want to preserve family harmony both while you are still alive and after you are gone.
Things could get ugly before your will is read. One of your children might make off with furniture, bags of clothing, heirlooms or other items. It is also possible someone could take cash and valuables that were meant to be divided among your relatives.
What steps can you take to prevent an estate dispute between your family members? The following ideas might help:
- Be careful when choosing your executor. This will probably be an adult child or sibling, but make sure you can trust him or her to follow the wishes you outline in your will.
- If you have specific desires, be sure they are clearly defined in your will. For example, you might want to give your car to your oldest child, your boat to the next child and your wedding ring to your youngest.
- Consider giving away some assets while you are still alive. This not only prevents pilfering or arguments over who gets what, but lets you see the enjoyment on your loved ones’ faces.
Also, let the person you choose as executor know that if anyone takes property before your estate is distributed, the court has the right to intervene and demand that the items outlined in your will be returned and given to the right person. With foresight, planning and luck, you may help your relatives avoid family disputes after your death and allow them to focus on the good times.