Earlier this month, in the September 12-13 edition, the Wall Street Journal ran a “Wealth Advisor” article by Veronica Dagher. In “Sibling Rivalry and Estate Planning”, she highlighted some horror stories of siblings fighting after a parent’s death. Sometimes the dispute is over significant assets, but commonly the family can’t agree on who should have possession of an item with minimal financial value but great sentimental value.
I agree wholeheartedly with two, reinforcing points made in the article. “Parents should plan ahead to smooth over conflicts and right any perceived wrongs.” Note the word “perceived” — perception can be as important (and damaging) as reality.
Second, Stephanie Zaffos of Convergent Wealth Advisors points out: “Disparate treatment in the estate-planning documents can lead to feelings of ‘mom/dad always loved you more. ‘ If children are going to be treated differently, let them know ahead of time and why.” No one likes an unpleasant surprise. And it seems that few can resist the temptation to assume the worst about the intentions that were behind that surprise, if they aren’t told the true motivations.
Conflict resolution is good; conflict prevention is even better.