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Exploring a Collaborative Approach to Estate Planning

Posted by Jennifer V. Gateb | Nov 14, 2016 | 0 Comments

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Most people think of estate planning as a very personal experience. After a lifetime of hard work, they feel entitled to distribute their assets as they see fit, without consulting their family. It can also be difficult for people to talk to their loved ones about their inevitable death and what will happen after they are gone. However, collaborative estate planning is increasingly allowing families to plan and prepare for what will happen after a loved one passes away.

Estate planning is not an easy process. There may be a lot at stake when distributing money, property, and assets to family members, friends, and charitable foundations. Unfortunately, this can lead to disputes and legal battles after a loved one passes away. Much of this fighting can be avoided by collaborative estate planning that brings stakeholders together.

Disputes involving inheritance and distribution of property are not just about money. They can often involve emotional connections with the property. Certain family members may have a deep attachment to their family home, a piece of jewelry or heirloom, while others think of the object as a piece of valuable property.

Similar to collaborative divorce law, collaborative estate planning seeks to avoid the adversarial approach that is traditionally involved in estate disputes. Most wills and estates are still created between the testator and their attorney, without the input of spouses, financial advisors or beneficiaries.

Collaborative estate planning often brings together parents and their adult children to discuss their family's estate plan. While it may be difficult for people to talk about death, communication about estate planning can help the children and parents. An attorney mediator can help the family develop a mutually satisfactory estate plan.

In traditional estate planning, spouses may disagree with how to distribute property from the estate. This may leave one person dictating the estate plan, with the other possibly changing course after a spouse passes away. A collaborative approach will help the couple develop a mutually agreeable way to distribute assets after death.

Most beneficiaries never know about an estate plan until after a family member dies. They may be surprised to learn that they are tasked with executing the will or acting as an agent for the estate. They may be unwilling or unable to carry out the plans of the estate, affecting themselves, the other beneficiaries, and failing the wishes of the decedent.

A collaborative estate plan allows your family to understand your estate wishes and the reasons behind them. It can prevent future family disputes, anger, and confusion. A collaborative approach can avoid costly litigation over assets, inheritance, and trust management. It can also save you time and money by having your attorney, financial advisors, and family work together to plan for the future.

If you have any questions about collaborative estate planning, Butterfield Schechter LLP is here to help. We will answer all your questions and make sure your estate plan will provide for your loved ones and keep your best interests at heart. Contact our office today with any questions on how we can help you succeed.

About the Author

Jennifer V. Gateb

Jennifer V. Gateb practices in the areas of general tax and estate planning, ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) and related benefit matters.

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