Estate law experts estimate that in Texas and across the country, about $30 trillion will pass from parents to children and grandchildren through inheritances over the next few decades. While you may not have $30 trillion to leave behind for your children, whatever you leave may be a windfall for some of your heirs. It may also be a source of contention.
Those who study wealth management say there is an increasing trend of children fighting over their perceived inheritances even before both parents have passed away. If you are already suspecting that your children will dispute your estate plan, you may want to take steps to prevent this, since such disputes typically result in long-lasting grief.
Theories about estate challenges
While some believe the rising amount of estate litigation is the result of a culture obsessed by money, others feel children battle over their parents' money because they have not taken steps to save for their own retirement. Some adult children who are becoming desperate as they near their own retirement age may also feel entitled to an inheritance that will fund their future plans.
This may be true in your situation, especially if your children have taken a salary cut to be available to provide you with the assistance you need. In some families, adult children may find the least expensive way to care for their aging parents in order to preserve what remains of their inheritance.
Open lines of communication
If you are still relatively healthy and in a good financial situation, you may want to take advantage of this time to start a conversation with your children about the future. Being open and honest about your wishes and your estate plan may preempt any disappointments, misunderstandings or hard feelings that often arise from an inheritance that isn't what someone expected. Some of the topics you can cover with your children may include:
- Where you would like to live if you reach the point where you can't take care of yourself
- What options your children and their families prefer for your long-term care
- What is affordable based on your current finances
- How you and your children will arrive at a resolution for any issues about which you have differing opinions
Psychologists also recommend giving your children a general idea of how your estate will be divided, especially if your children will not receive an equal share or if part of your estate will go to someone other than your children, like a charity. Getting these questions into the open will help prepare your children for the future and perhaps give them more realistic expectations for their inheritance.
There are many options available for those who expect their heirs to fight over an inheritance. Seeking legal counsel will allow you to prepare your estate carefully to minimize the possibility of someone challenging your wishes.