“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” so says the song. While it certainly can be, it is also the time of the year when family tensions, squabbles or outright fights can surface and intensify. A completely unrelated matter may open a real or perceived family wound and before you know it it’s like a scene from “Four Christmases.”
In a recent article from the Wealth Counsel staff (wealthmanagement.com) trusted advisors are reminded what can happen when such a real or perceived matter automatically escalates to an “11.” There is much that can be done in advance, hopefully when emotions are quieter, to avoid immediate and irreparable legal action. Ideally, the Family Meeting is the best preventative measure. For instance, if one adult child has put his/her life on hold to move in and care for an aging parent and that parent wants to leave that child the house, it’s probably best to discuss that with the other adult children while that parent is still alive and communicative. Perhaps one or both parents have been financially generous with one child during their lives, so that child is not left as much in the Trust or Will. Much better to hear the thinking/rationale from Mom and/or Dad than to have it “read out” by a Trustee or Personal Representative after Mom and/or Dad passes (especially if a sibling or other family member is serving in that role).
Even if there has been a Family Meeting, the emotions surrounding the serious illness or death of a family member can be intense – think of the emotions and anxiety raised by the last family wedding and multiply that by 100. The anxiety, upset, grief, etc. still don’t need to result in legal action. Mediation is a highly effective way to keep it ALL In the family (the privacy of the matter, the money, and the family).
Ultimately, there may be nothing to be done, but it’s worth it for your clients and their beneficiaries to do all that is possible to KEEP IT IN THE FAMILY.