Tips for reducing family conflict over an estate plan


People who are part of North Carolina families where there is a good deal of conflict may face some additional challenges when they create an estate plan. Whether there is just dysfunction that falls short of estrangement or family members are no longer speaking to one another, tensions may escalate if there is perceived unfairness in the will and other estate planning documents. However, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of this happening.

Careful planning

One important element is making sure that estate planning documents are prepared correctly and are unambiguous. Periodically reviewing the will, beneficiary designations, trusts and any other estate planning documents can help prevent situations in which an inheritance is left to someone after the relationship has changed, such as an ex-spouse. In blended families, people may want to use trusts or other vehicles to help ensure that both the current spouse and children from the earlier relationship are taken care of.


Communication is the other critical element in helping to reduce conflict. Talking to family members ahead of time about why the estate is split a certain way can help them better understand the situation. This also reduces the element of surprise that can divide the family if the estate is not distributed in a way that they expected. In addition, if one heir is getting substantially more than others, explaining why ahead of time can reduce suspicion that the heir applied pressure in order to get a larger share of the inheritance.

Taking these steps can help preserve relationships and save money that might be spent fighting over the estate in court. While family tensions may continue, good planning and communication can help ensure that they are not worsened.