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Sibling Rivalry: A Real Concern for Estate Planners

published 10/15/2015

If Frozen has taught us anything, it’s that even the most loving siblings don’t always get along.

As a matter of fact, feuding is what brothers and sisters do best. They have a lifetime of experience in that department, after all.Two beautiful girls  having quarrel

It may come as no surprise, then, that sibling rivalry accounts for some of the most common setbacks in the world of estate planning.

The Wall Street Journal recently recounted a few sibling nightmares in the aftermath of a parent’s unexpected passing.

Most famously, there was the matter of Jimi Hendrix’s $80 million estate. The late guitarist died in 1970, apparently passing his assets to his father, who later died in 2002. That death left the massive estate under the control of just one of Jimi’s surviving siblings. As you might imagine, one of the other siblings was not pleased. They only recently resolved their courtroom battle, some 45 years after Jimi’s passing.

On the other end of the monetary scale, a particularly nasty saga grew out of a $15 watch. Two sisters warred over the relatively worthless timepiece, which one of the daughters had given to their mom as a gift during childhood. The mother’s will left the jewelry “to my daughters, as they may decide.” The sisters were so intensely divided over the other items in the estate that the watch wound up in a bidding war.

“The sister without sentimental interest in the watch valued it at $6,000 just to keep it from her sister,” the Journal writes.

These kinds of sibling disputes are extremely common, but they’re also largely avoidable. Most result from sloppy estate planning, poor drafting, and the absence of an attorney.

The keys to sidestepping sibling drama are specificity, communication, and insight.

At Bixler Moore, LLC, we emphasize specific bequests for objects of special significance, whether financial or sentimental in nature. We also help in facilitating clear communication between family members so that no one is caught off guard when an estate plan goes into effect. Surprise is never helpful in the aftermath of death.

If you have more than one child and are worried about the impact that your unexpected passing could have on their relationship, there are easy steps you can take today to spare them from strife. Our office can help. Give us a call.

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