It’s true when people say that money can’t necessarily buy happiness. It may sound privileged, but an outrageous amount of wealth can cause discord among family members, especially if the parents, or the patriarch or matriarch in the family, fail to place some safeguards to avoid conflicts in the first place.
If your family of origin has a reasonably large estate or residential property, now is the time to take steps to avoid family property disputes in the future. Here are some ways you can start.
Consult with legal professionals
Contrary to popular belief, lawyering up doesn’t automatically mean one is planning to sue the other side. Consulting with legal professionals can help with the following:
- Estate planning
- Writing a last will
- Helping families settle smaller financial conflicts and disputes before they become bigger issues in the future
It’s never too early to consult with lawyers about your current predicament, especially if the family has to contend with some debts and other financial hurdles. Enlist the help of lawyers that you need for certain situations: An eviction lawyer if you’re being asked to leave the property, a bankruptcy attorney if the business is going under, or lawyers that specialize in debt relief.
More often than not, some law firms already offer all these services combined. Enlist the help of a legal professional who knows their way around these issues so that you’re not grappling in the dark for solutions to your problems or to know your rights and responsibilities.
Knows the ins and outs of estate planning
Growing your wealth is not the end-all and be-all of life. After you’ve accumulated a certain amount of money, it is now your responsibility to steward it well and train the next generation in your family so that your blood, sweat, and tears won’t go to waste. This is where estate planning comes in.
Estate planning is simply the process of determining how a patriarch or matriarch’s assets will be managed in the event of their death or incapacitation. Good estate planning involves the following aspects:
- How the assets will be bequeathed to heirs, and not just necessarily to the individual’s children or grandchildren
- The proper settlement of estate taxes so that those who are to inherit won’t have to pay as much anymore
- Writing a last will, setting up trust funds, bestowing charitable gifts to decrease estate taxes, establishing funeral arrangements and requests, and naming beneficiaries and the executor of the will
If the above is properly established and decided, and if their contents are revealed to the children and other beneficiaries, then everyone can manage their expectations, and there will be no need for disputes. And even if there are disputes, the parents can at least have it handled early, so they can be part of the conversations and discussions while they’re still here, as opposed to when they’ve already passed on or incapacitated.
Enlist the help of a mediator
This is a crucial step, especially in families where businesses are involved or if there is some tension within family members. A professional mediator can help bring family members together to roll up their sleeves, so they can all reach a consensus. Professional mediators also do the following:
- Mediators are trained to help members of the family communicate properly and clearly, especially if this is not the family’s strongest suit. The mediator helps provide an atmosphere where principled negotiation and constructive dialogue can take place, instead of toxic or tense conditions where close family ties and big amounts of money are concerned.
- Mediators can also work with lawyers so that all sides can ensure that any agreements made within the mediation period are well within the framework of the law.
Consider the emotional consequences of your decision
Whatever trauma your family or children has suffered, make sure that how you pass down your property won’t add more. This includes talking with each of your children to ask what will help them move on with their lives and how you can be of service to them while making these decisions. Make sure that you are equitable and treat every child fairly according to your conscience. Don’t add fuel to the fire if there is already tension in the family.
If you know that your children are likely to fight about the inheritance if something happens to you, then now is the time to take steps to avoid that foregone conclusion. Your family members deserve the new beginning, and you do too. Good luck!