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Estate Planning Mistake #1: Naming an Executor Who Doesn’t Get Along with Your Other Heirs

When you’re dealing with families, money and the emotional impact of losing a loved one, things can turn ugly quickly.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen unresolved  siblings feuds lead to acrimonious and protracted litigation concerning the administration and distribution of the estate.

One estate that comes immediately to mind involved two sisters who hadn’t spoken to one another in a number of years.  One sister lived in the same state as her mother who had passed away, the other sister, who happened to also be named as the Executrix under her mother’s Last Will and Testament, did not.

Ideally and had we prepared the mother’s Will, we would probably have counseled her to consider naming and independent and objective third party to oversee and handle the administration of her estate.  If you know your children don’t get along, you really need to take that into consideration when you are putting together and creating your estate plan.  However, that did not happen here.

After the mother died, the daughter who lived nearby started to take care of a few things around her mother’s home not realizing that she didn’t have the legal right to do so.  Once her sister arrived and formally opened the estate, the accusations started to fly about household items and personal effects having been removed and, needless to say, an ugly legal battle began.  Ultimately the matter got resolved, but not before both sisters had spent several thousand dollars apiece in legal fees fighting over assets that probably had only sentimental value, but little or no actual monetary value.

As I mentioned above and in order to avoid situations precisely like this, we typically advise our clients to take into consideration the often complicated dynamics that may exist between their family members and future heirs.  If you know that your children or other heirs do not get along and are likely to fight after you’re gone, it makes absolutely no sense to put one of them in charge over the others.  We also typical discourage them from trying to force them to get along by naming more than one of them as co-executors or personal representatives of the estate.  This is only likely to result in the administration process becoming overly cumbersome and complicated.  It’s typically best to consider an independent and neutral third party to serve in the role of personal representative.  Remember, if you take the appropriate steps now, you will save your children and heirs from a lot of unnecessary grief, expense and fighting later on.

At American Wills & Estates we have been guiding clients throughout Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania through both the estate planning and probate estate administration process with competency, compassion and care for over 25 years.  Call us today to schedule your free legal consultation, or visit us online at www.americanwillsandestates.com

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