Estate planning nightmares don’t just exist in dreams. Writing for DailyFinance, Reporter Michele Lerner relays several real-life horror stories that arose—and certainly have been replicated in similar forms far and wide—due to families neglecting to have detailed conversations about inheritance plans. “According to the 2014 Intra-Family Generational Finance Study by Fidelity Investments,” Lerner writes, “64 percent of parents older than 55 who have at least $100,000 in investable assets and their adult children over 30 aren’t on the same page about when the right time is to have conversations about estate planning.”
For her article, “Avoid These Estate Planning Nightmares,” Lerner asked John O. McManus, founder of McManus & Associates, to share estate planning blow-ups that his clients have faced and how he helped them overcome each challenge. From the story’s section titled, “Cross-Country Squabbling Siblings”:
A client of John O. McManus, an estate attorney and founding principal of McManus & Associates in New York City, had a client whose daughter lived on the West Coast and son and daughter-in-law lived close to her on the East Coast. The children had joint power of attorney, and the daughter would sign blank checks so that her brother and his wife could pay for things their mother needed without constantly needing her signature.
“The son wrote his wife checks from his mom’s account as a salary to pay her for taking care of his mother, which caused some tension between the siblings,” says McManus. “Due to the son’s history of run-ins with the law, the daughter was wary of letting him have too much power over his mom’s estate.”
Ultimately, the mother named the daughter as sole executor. But after the mother passed away, the daughter-in-law took things out of the house that she claimed were hers or were “intended for her” by the deceased mom. “The daughter called the cops to have the daughter-in-law arrested when she would not leave the home of the decedent,” says McManus.
McManus was able to get both parties to agree that the daughter-in-law could go through the house with the estate sales team to select items that she claimed were left to her, and the company would value these items to be deducted from her share of the deceased’s estate.
To avoid situations in which relatives fight over individual property, it’s best to include a written list of items of value with designated recipients in your will.