Competitive family? A tailored estate plan can help

Advanced planning to avoid future family conflict.

It hardly needs to be said, but sometimes even close family members can become engaged in conflict. It may stem from sibling rivalry, a previous miscommunication, or simply because some family members have different personalities and outlooks on life.

While occasional conflict, or even a sustained period of unease, does not mean your family is broken, it can complicate estate planning. Discord and competition can create a battle for inheritance among siblings. Such conflicts can lengthen probate, increase the cost of administering an estate, and run counter to your wishes regarding the help your inheritance can provide loved ones.

A comprehensive estate plan can reduce or eliminate conflict

Fortunately an estate plan can help reduce or even eliminate an inheritance as a source of conflict. The following techniques go a long way toward mitigating conflict during the distribution of an estate:

· Communication with your relatives about your estate plan and wishes

· Equal treatment for beneficiaries. If there is a reason to deviate from this, make it clear why in the estate plan and

· Naming a capable and objective executor of your estate. While your son, daughter or spouse may want the best for your family, that does not necessarily mean they are able to be the executor.

· If you name co-executors or trustees, make sure they will be able to work together

These provisions may help

In addition to communication and advanced planning, certain clauses in the will can help reduce contention during the distribution of an estate. A "no contest" clause provides that anyone who litigates the provisions in the will forfeits his or her bequest. In order for this to be an incentive, of course, there must be enough of a bequest that the person who feels slighted still does not want to risk losing everything.

You can also bequeath certain specific items to individuals. If you have a prized possession that carries more emotional weight for one child or loved one, you can bequeath that specifically and compensate by giving other items or money to other beneficiaries. You should also continually update your will to ensure it accurately reflects how you wish your possessions to be distributed.

Use professional services

Because every family is unique, it is best to secure the services of professionals when deciding your estate plan. This could include naming a professional entity as executor or trustee, discussing your finances with a financial advisor, and ensuring you create your estate plan with advice from an experienced estate planning attorney.