When a parent passes away, their children are left to pick up the pieces. The last thing you want is to deal with disputes over your parent’s estate in the midst of grieving. Generally, one sibling is named the trustee and takes on the majority of the responsibilities. Unfortunately, siblings do not always come to an agreement. When this happens, lawsuits arise, and you could be facing a legal battle. However, all of this could be avoided.
Here are some steps to help prevent an estate battle before it happens.
Your siblings want to be heard. One of the biggest complaints we hear from siblings dealing with their parents’ estate is that their opinion doesn’t matter. When one sibling is appointed the trustee, it can feel like that person makes all the big decisions without consulting the rest of the family. The simplest thing you can do as the trustee is to ask what your siblings think. Consult with them on the major decisions and try your hardest to get everyone to a consensus. Even if you all have differing opinions, and you have to make an executive decision, your siblings will still feel included in the process and respected.
Transparency and communication are key when preventing legal disputes. It’s imperative that as the trustee, you keep your siblings updated. Provide frequent updates such as phone calls, group texts, and emails to your siblings. Whether the update is small or large, every detail matters. Set a specific day of the week or frequency for your updates, so your siblings know when to expect new information. Even if you don’t have new information, use that time to get feedback or resolve any nonlegal issues.
Related article: 3 Steps to Communicating with Your Siblings
Hire a Professional
As the trustee, you will undoubtedly feel the stress of managing your parent’s estate while still grieving your loss. Working with a professional can help alleviate some of those stressors. You can even avoid serious account mishandling by using a professional’s eye. This is why it’s imperative to ask for professional assistance, especially when dealing with trust accounting. Experienced CPAs will help you keep a detailed account of taxes paid, distribution made to trust beneficiaries, fees and expenses, and compensation for the trustee.
Related article: What is Trust Accounting for a Trust?
Difficulties can arise when managing your parent’s estate. It can feel overwhelming to grieve your loss while being under the additional stress of your siblings, but you don’t have to do it alone.