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How to prevent family rivalries over your estate

We take the time to design a sound and fair estate plan for the benefit of our families. That's why the idea that our families could break apart into fighting and squabbles after we pass away is such a disheartening one. Even though disagreement is common after a death in the family, there are some things we can do in our estate plans to avoid such an outcome.

Here are some of the most pertinent strategies for keeping your family in good standing with each other after you're gone:

Hold a meeting and tell your family about your estate plan and estate distribution. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page, and it gives family members an opportunity to voice their concerns. Even if they don't like your decisions, at least they know what you wanted, and they will be less likely to get upset after your death.

Be fair and equal in your asset division plan. You might have one child or family member about whom you don't feel especially good. You might even be tempted to unevenly distribute your wealth among family members because you don't get along well with this person. However, that unequal distribution could present a serious problem to your family's ability to get along after you've died.

Be careful when selecting your executor. Always choose an executor who is competent in a business sense, but also has a fair degree of diplomacy and tact. This will help everyone stay in communication and help them get along after you have died.

Specify who will receive objects of sentimental value. You might have some possessions that don't have any real value, but have tremendous sentimental value. Consider carefully who should receive these items and note in your estate plan who will receive each one -- and distribute them in a fashion that's fair. This will prevent fighting when family members are trying to determine who should receive what from your estate.

The more forethought, open communication and care you put into your estate planning, the more likely your family members will be to get along. Make sure you understand all of your estate planning options and to build a lawful and fair estate plan that will help keep your family together when you're gone.

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