When a parent dies, their estate plan directs the estate’s executor in distributing assets to creditors and heirs. Estate plans assemble legal documents like living wills, life insurance policies, retirement plans, and wills that outline the decedent’s final wishes. A well-designed estate plan can help grieving families focus on healing instead of managing their parent’s complex estate.

Sometimes though, even clear instructions may not satisfy some heirs. Contention among siblings may lead to claims through probate. To curb family in-fighting, parents can follow a three-step process that opens up estate planning.

Three-steps to open communication in estate planning

The best way for a family to avoid probate court is by eliminating any potential claims against the estate.  In addition to resolving debts and satisfying creditors, parents can also reach out to heirs and let them in on decision-making. These three-steps prioritize transparency:

  1. Hire an attorney experienced with California estate planning: A knowledgeable attorney can help parents draft comprehensive estate plans or decipher one they did not design.
  2. Include a financial overview: A financial overview can make the inheritance process a little easier. These documents list assets and their locations and encourage open communication between the heirs and the executor. Helpful overviews will include a full list of assets and their beneficiaries, contact information for professionals knowledgeable about the estate, login information for important websites, and a letter addressing heirlooms and nonfinancial assets.
  3. Inform the family: Parents can then hold a meeting with all their heirs and inform them about the estate plan. A meeting allows parents to see how their children react and curb any issues before they become disputes. Parents can also introduce the estate executor to reduce skepticism and increase trust. This meeting also provides siblings the opportunity to voice their concerns and ask questions.

Communication is key

When families disagree over the distribution of their parents’ estate, the resulting conflicts may last years. Parents concerned about their family’s wellbeing after death can reach out to a local attorney familiar with estate planning.