Problems with estates vary from garden variety to huge conflicts. Even for a perfectly planned estate, a problem can arise. In my experience, an estate plan generally fails because of problem people versus problem estates. And, every person and family is different.
Luckily, prudent people of sound mind have an opportunity to reduce conflict.
Problems with Estates: First Truth
The first truth is as follows. Problems and risks can rarely be reduced to zero. When I think about an estate, I like the idea of finding people I trust to manage my affairs when I am in need.
Whether this includes family members or paid professionals, I want to make this easy for my family.
Problems with Estates: Second Truth
Money and children can be a common stress, but people are the real problem. Lying, cheating, and stealing are bad. Greed, envy and pride are equally bad. I believe the strongest response to an irrational family member or friend or whomever is having a plan that was created as a plan of mercy.
Of course, this isn’t always possible, but it certainly helps. Even more significant, problems with estates can be reduced with fancy legal clauses like eliminating a person from a plan if they decide to pursue a claim in bad faith or attaching attorney fees. Perhaps punitive on their face, but effective.
Problems with Estates: Third Truth and Types of Issues
When I meet with a person or family, I like the idea of understanding the goal of seeking help or advisement from an attorney. During the course of the estate planning process, here are a few problems most folks want to avoid:
- Can my will or trust get contested?
- Was my trust properly funded?
- Were documents signed under duress or without a sound mind?
- Fiduciary conflicts and errors.
- Failed steps by a personal representative.
- Business or cabin assets fell apart.
- Beneficiaries were forgotten or omitted.
- An abuse of power exhibited by a family member.
- Ownership issues with a beneficiary form.
- Non-traditional family dynamics.
- And or other stresses/issues.