How To Avoid Estate Disputes

As Your Estate Lawyer I'm passionate about helping you avoid estate disputes, avoid avoidable problems, solve unavoidable problems and ultimately help your family stay friends after you die, by playing the game "What will life REALLY look like after you die - for you WHOLE family."

Sometimes that means having hard conversations with you about who you want to reward and who you're trying to punish in your will. And sometimes it means helping you have hard conversations with your family who may have different expectations to the reality they will inherit.

Death Chat
"No matter what happens, I don't think it can hurt or be any worse than leaving your family to seek solutions to avoidable problems."

A friend recently told me she'd decided to put her big girl pants on and have a conversation with her widowed mother about being named a co-executor of her mum's estate.

Concerned that she and her only sibling, who didn't always see eye to eye, were going to be left to make decisions together about their mum's after-death care. My friend was keen to avoid being embroiled in a costly, emotional and stressful estate dispute. And knew if she stayed in the role of executor chances were she and her family would no longer be friends after her mum died.

Creating Estate Disputes

Before we even head towards solutions, let's back up the bus a moment.

Even knowing she is named an executor of someone's will puts my friend one giant step ahead of most people.

The majority of executors don't get an invitation to the party until after the event. By which time it's too late to work through the details or figure out if you're really fit for the job (or in this case willing to walk through the potential quagmire of emotion involved).

We'd never think of inviting someone to be the Best Man at a wedding without giving them the heads up they'd been nominated for the job. And we certainly wouldn't spring in on them when they arrived suited and booted that they were expected to skydive out of a plane or sign the register after hiking to the top of a mountain to fulfil their obligation.

And yet that's what we do when we keep our wills in the dark. Secrecy is a breeding ground for disputes.

Solution to an avoidable problem

Now my friend is of a vintage where she undoubtedly finds herself saying 487,000 times a week "Come to me with your solutions and not your problems". Which spurred her on to find what she thought was the right solution to the problem in front of her.

Problem: I don't want to make big decisions about my mum's after-death care with my sibling who I don't get along with because we'll probably fight and I don't want that.

Solution: I'll find an alternative decision-maker for my mum's estate.

A big scratch-and-sniff sticker to my mate for realising that a potential dispute was in the making.

But friends don't let friends make dumb decisions (or avoid hard conversations) so I offered my advice (because of course I did!).

"You're looking for a solution to an avoidable problem..," I said.

And that's when it hit me. Traditional estate planning. Traditional secretive wills. Traditional dispute-focused law. They're all solutions to an entirely avoidable problem.

Death Chats

In my experience, most problems that materialise after death are easily solved by having a conversation with all the important parties whilst the willmaker is alive.

In much the same way as she had sat with her mum and sister to organise weddings, major Birthday parties, and even the burial of their husband and father on their family property. My friend had the opportunity to sit down and plan her mum's after-death care so there was no need to seek solutions after the event.

A death love-in gives you the space to create a death running sheet, an action plan, a timeline, and a contingency plan along with agreeing on core values and decision-making principles to refer to for each thing done in respect to finalising a future deceased estate.

I gave my friend options of what to say to get her mother on board. I suggested how to approach her sister and invite her along. I helped her plan the questions she wanted to ask.

I gave them the tools to have the conversation that would be challenging before death, but I know will make all the difference after death.

My friend booked her plane ticket. My friend did the hard work. My friend is still the executor of her mum's estate.

If you want help facilitating a Death Chat with your own family, I'd love to give you the same tools.

After all, whatever happens, I don't think it can hurt or be any worse than leaving your family to seek solutions to avoidable problems.

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