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Estate Planning: Avoiding a Family Feud

Are you concerned that the distribution of your estate will cause disagreements between your children after you pass away?  Here are three things that can instigate sibling feuds and solutions to help you prevent them from happening.

1.     Who Will Make Healthcare and Financial Decisions If You Are Unable to Do So?

When a parent becomes ill it can cause a lot of stress for their children, particularly if hospitalization is required for a long period of time.  This situation can become even more challenging if the parent’s health is in serious decline and they become unable to make healthcare or financial decisions on their own.  A parent who does not have a Power of Attorney or Healthcare Directive forces their loved ones to make decisions for them which can cause conflict between siblings if they cannot come to an agreement.  In some situations, siblings have gone to court to settle these kinds of disputes.  This can cause a permanent rift in their relationship and expensive court fees, not to mention the lost time that could be instead spent with their ailing parent.

To prevent this conflict, parents need to create a Power of Attorney and a Healthcare Directive.  Your Power of Attorney lets you delegate someone to administer your finances if you become unable to do so.  Your Healthcare Directive allows you to specify your wishes for medical treatment and care ahead of time and appoints someone to communicate on your behalf if you are not able to provide consent.

2. How Will Your Assets Be Divided After You Pass Away?

Family feuds can easily occur if both parents pass away and don’t leave behind a Last Will and Testament.  Without a will, the allocation of heirlooms and family possessions can easily cause disagreements between siblings if they are unable to agree on who gets what.  Without their parents to make decisions about the division of assets, siblings often become resentful and their relationships can suffer.

Parents need to create a Last Will and Testament to identify how their possessions are to be divided amongst their children.  Your Last Will and Testament decreases the likelihood of your children fighting over material possessions and ensures that your loved ones are taken care of.

3. How Will You Explain Your Estate Planning Decisions?

Sometimes a will is not sufficient to prevent sibling feuds from starting.  For example, parents might decide to give one of their children more money or a specific item that holds significant sentimental or monetary value.  In this situation, the other siblings can feel neglected or jealous.  Many parents avoid discussing their will with their children because it is uncomfortable but the lack of communication can ultimately cause more problems down the line.

Parents need to communicate with their children about their will and encourage an open discussion about how their estate will be divided.  Make sure you put aside some time with your children to discuss your estate plan and your wishes.


Ensure your estate planning documents are in order to prevent sibling feuds after you are gone.   Communicate your plans clearly to your loved ones to ensure that your healthcare, financial and estate plans are taken care of.  Taking these steps now will help to ensure that your children will be there to support each other when you pass away.

To discuss your specific needs and to find out how an estate planning lawyer in Pittsburgh can help you, please call us at Fingeret Law (412.281.8222) or contact us online.

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