9 Ways to Cause a Dispute After You Die: Probate and Trust Administration Nightmares
Often we get calls from someone who is facing a mess because a loved one died and failed to plan properly.
At that point we never really know whether the deceased person created this mess on purpose, or by accident.
So, my advice is this: If you want to create a mess for your family, don’t leave it to chance. Do it right and plan the mess yourself!
Here are 9 ways you can create a mess after you die
1. Don’t organize your assets. Assume that what you own will fit in with your legal documents. Somehow by accident it will work out.
2. Don’t talk about what you are planning to do. So your wife and your kids (some maybe from a previous marriage) can both assume they knew what you wanted. Leave it vague enough so no one really knows, and there certainly is no legal guidance. And be sure to keep your financial situation secret, from your kids and even your wife. They don’t need to know yet.
3. Name an executor or trustee without much thought. Just name the obvious choice, regardless of their track record for honesty or handling money. Even though trustees sometimes run off with the money or mishandle investments, that probably won’t happen to you. Even though the person you chose has never shown themselves to be up to such a task, they will step up and do fine. Right? And certainly don’t ask yourself one of the best questions – “would I trust this person with my checkbook today, while I’m still alive?”
4. Don’t pay for professional legal advice. Just do it yourself. Type up (or hand write) your own trust or will. Fill out those IRA beneficiary forms, even customize them yourself without knowing the law. I’m sure it will work out somehow.
5. Make promises to family members. You know, about what you plan to leave them. Then don’t do it that way. They will understand. I’m sure they won’t want to fight in court about whether your wishes were written down wrong or whether you were in your right mind. They will understand that you didn’t keep your promise.
6. Talk about your estate in vague terms. Say things to your wife like, “you will be taken care of” and “you won’t want for anything.” Say things to your kids like, “you will be treated fairly.” Don’t talk specifics, but just talk about generalities, so the people listening to you can
assume what they want to about what you plan to leave to them.
7. Don’t use a professional trustee. Such as a bank. You don’t want to spend money on something like that, where a professional will know how to get the job done and make sure that your wishes are carried out in a way that’s legal and proper. Much better to leave it to friends or family members who may not exactly know what they’re doing, incurring extra taxes or making messes that need to be cleaned up later.
8. Use your plan to give the family chances to learn to get along better. Create your plan in a way that creates conflict among your loved ones. For instance, name your spouse and a kid from a prior marriage as co-trustees. I’m sure they’ll get along well enough to be able to sort out your estate.
9. Name a family member as a trustee of the funds you leave behind for someone else. Put your trustee in a difficult situation after your death where they have to refuse to give some of your money to another family member, particularly when it’s someone from the other side of the family. And be sure not to give clear guidance about when and how that person should be able to access funds. This will put the maximum pressure on the trustee and increase the hard feelings of the person asking for the money. No matter how the trustee decides, someone will feel either mistreated or pressured.
Article written by our colleague David Edwards and used by permission.