Kaplin Stewart

Avoiding conflict during trust administration

A great many Pennsylvania residents take a narrow approach to estate planning. They focus primarily on how to pass down assets to their intended heirs, and they give little thought to how to decrease the risk of conflict between family members. When the time comes for trust administration to take place, there can be significant infighting among surviving loved ones.

Often, the problem does not lie with faulty estate planning but,instead, with a lack of adequate communication between family members before those plans need to be called into action. By sitting down and discussing these matters with one’s chosen heirs, everyone involved can be clear on the manner in which assets will be distributed. This is also the time to address the reasons behind those decisions.

Once those discussions have taken place, it is equally important to revisit the issue any time that a significant change occurs. Failing to do so can result in an outcome that is even worse than never broaching the subject at all. Loved ones may remember exactly what was discussed previously and then cling to those plans against all reason, even if the final estate planning documents contain a different division of wealth.

Trust administration is a demanding task, and a Pennsylvania resident asked to fill that role will already have his or her hands full. Adding family tensions to that mix can be too much and can place an undue burden on the person who is the designated administrator. The best way to avoid conflict and challenge after a loss is to ensure that everyone involved is on the same page about the provisions laid out within the overall plan.  

Source: recordonline.com, “Bonnie Kraham: Planning can help avoid estate fight“, Bonnie Kraham, Dec. 9, 2015