Will your will cause a family feud? Plan ahead to avoid one

If you have more than one, you may be struggling with what you plan to leave to each. It can be difficult to get a true even split of your assets and personal items even when that is your goal. Also, for various reasons, that might not be what you are trying to do with your wealth.

The one thing that you’re certain of is that you don’t want a postmortem feud between your heirs. How can this be avoided?

Communication during your lifetime is key. Discussing with your adult children the way you plan to leave your assets can give them the opportunity to accept your decision or discuss alternatives. It’s also a bad idea to allow one heir to be dependent on the good intentions of another. It sets up an unhealthy dynamic in the relationship that might never be adjusted.

Understand, too, that what is equal might not be fair. If you paid for one child’s education through medical school or bought another a house, those contributions could be seen as an early part of their inheritance. Then there is the concept of need. Leaving the family home to your divorced daughter with children might make sense to you. But to her siblings with intact marriages, it could be perceived as unfair favoritism.

Another area where you should tread lightly is how you designate your personal items. Fights over grandma’s quilts and family portraits can get bitter fast. Ask now who wants what to reduce conflict. Another way is to have a system where each can pick items fairly among themselves. Don’t promise an item to more than one heir during your lifetime or a feud could erupt at your funeral.

An estate-planning attorney can help you devise the best method to distribute your assets.