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When a parent's death ignites war between siblings

For many parents, a chief goal of an estate plan centers on providing for the financial security of one’s children. Additionally, parents often aim to ensure that personal effects are retained by and disbursed among one's children. In a perfect scenario, grown siblings would be able to reasonably, fairly and peaceably divide a parent's personal belongings. Too often, however, long-seeded rivalries between siblings reemerge upon a parent's death and wars are waged over seemingly minor and petty things.

For siblings, the death of a parent can stir up all sorts of difficult emotions and learning that a parent has left a prized sentimental possession to a brother or sister can be difficult to accept. When a parent is no longer around to explain his or her reasoning for making a decision or to run interference between quarreling siblings, things can quickly get out of hand and result in a legal battle.

Even among siblings who get along and are close, the death of a parent can be a difficult reality to bear and, unfortunately, can bring out the worst in some brothers and sisters. To avoid sibling rivalries from turning into all out war, parents are advised to be up front with their children and inform them of their decisions with regard to the inheritance of assets and disbursement of personal belongings while still alive.

In addition to engaging in open and honest discussions with one's children, parents would also be wise to think twice about naming one child as an estate executor or naming siblings as co-executors. Even though it may seem unnecessary or impersonal at the time, selecting a third-party like a bank or attorney to act as an estate's executor can greatly reduce bickering and hard feelings between one's children.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Sibling Rivalry Complicates Estate Planning," Veronica Dagher, Sept. 9, 2015

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