When I was younger, I used to pretend not to notice who my parents liked and didn’t like.
While most of my relatives that were on the “approved” list, there were a couple of relatives that were not.
That’s not to say they didn’t get invited to the Memorial Day barbecues but conversations afterwards were
in hushed tones and all very adult or even worse, no conversation at all. As an adult,
I realize that all families have their dynamics. This includes favored siblings, strained relationships,
and my personal favorite on the inter-generational tragedy list: an old disagreement that causes family members
to ignore each other for decades and sometimes take their grievance to the grave.
Sometimes if you ask them why they don’t speak, they cant even remember!!!
I know this sounds crazy but it happens A LOT in families.
When we ignore familial issues or pretend we don’t notice major patterns in unhealthy behaviors among our children or spouses,
when the grief of death hits them, so does the rage, anger, guilt, and/or fear. While part of my job is to look into a crystal ball and help people craft their future in writing, it seems quite predictable that if you spend the time and energy to create an estate plan but you ignore family drama that involves trustees or beneficiaries, then you are playing Russian roulette with your legacy. Why do I say that…? When your family includes second marriages, dysfunction in part of the family, family members that have been married more than once, sibling rivalry, and addictions, then you are looking at an increase in likelihood of litigation. Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross introduced a model of five stages of grief and bereavement; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. If you combine the anger/fear/guilt/shame/depression that people experience after losing a loved one add sibling rivalry/jealousy/mistrust/hatred/depression/ addiction then this formula has the potential to: = lawsuit filed in court because parties cannot work it out. To summarize Grief Family Drama=Increase in likelihood of ending up in court. Common situations that lead to court are:
1) Lawsuits over the wording in the trust or will,
2) Challenges over how valid the will or trust is,
3) Beneficiaries suing the trustee for not behaving according to the trust, etc. Solution: You can mitigate future damage and greatly increase the peace and unity of family members by taking the following three steps:
1) As you create your estate plan, address any family “drama” that may affect parties in the future with your attorney.
2) Upon the advise of counsel, have what our firm calls a “2 step family meeting” where we all meet, address the issues, and then work them out.
3) Work with your attorney to change or modify your trust draft if necessary to encapsulate creative solutions that will help lower the risk of a trust litigation.