Peace After Death


A clear goal in your estate planning should be peace after death. Being flexible and thoughtful in your estate planning can help avoid family feuds over your possessions – their inheritance. Who gets the pink tablecloth? The latest indications are that your heirs will fight over your estate and perhaps even squander a portion of it through disagreements. Advance planning today can help minimize battles in the future. According to the consulting firm Accenture, it is estimated that $30 trillion of wealth worldwide will be passed from older to younger generations in the next 30 to 40 years, with about 70 percent of families losing part of their inherited wealth primarily due to estate battles. There are several steps to take when building an estate plan to head off such strife.

First, decide what “fair” means.  Assets and possessions have different values for different family members. Focusing on “fairness” can help. A parent may leave more money to a struggling adult child and less to one who has become rich on her own. One child might need money for long-term care while another would enjoy a family vacation home. Start by itemizing and talking to family members. Make a list of your assets: financial accounts, retirement savings, life insurance, etc., and note the beneficiaries of those assets. Then consider who might want to inherit furniture, jewelry, and family heirlooms. Get input from the family members. Another way of evening the score is to get your property and possessions appraised and let family members take turns selecting what they would like to have. Most importantly, be consistent and clear to all family members. Try to keep in mind that children do not necessarily want what you plan to give them. The silver, dishes and glassware that you treasured throughout your life may hold little appeal for the next generation. Add to that the fact that it is almost impossible to equalize your property and possessions. A book about the family dynamics of inheritance, “Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate?” spells it out, written by Marlene Stum, professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul. For additional information, go to: