This is the second installment of a two-part series about the realities of and remedies for sibling rivalry over family inheritance. For more about what causes and complicates sibling rivalry, read Inheritance: The #1 Cause of Adult Sibling Rivalry.
In part one of this series, we learned just how prevalent and problematic sibling rivalry can be when it comes to dealing with issues of inheritance. Luckily, the secrets to avoiding these kinds of conflicts can be universally applied.
The Ameriprise research that indicated 70% of sibling conflicts arise over these kinds of issues also showed that — happily — 61% of siblings will attempt to talk through the issues. Unfortunately, those conversations don’t always lead to amicable resolutions. Only 33% of the conflicts are resolved, leaving many more that continue to feed tension and ultimately create deep familial rifts.
Communication is key
The answer to finding a way out of these difficult situations is, as if often the case, good communication. Siblings (and parents, while they are still alive) should engage in open and honest conversations about intentions and expectations around inheritance. More to the point, these conversations should take place on an ongoing basis so that everyone remains on the same page even as situations change.
Early on, these conversations can include topics such as how siblings will share in taking care of their parents. Taking the time to listen to each sibling and define clear responsibilities is critical to ensuring that everyone feels that the ultimate arrangements are equitable.
Early conversations are also a good time for parents to share their intentions and the reasons behind their decisions about how to distribute an inheritance. Parents may want to consider taking some time to draft an ethical Will, a document that captures a person’s values, insights, and beliefs, and which can be a powerful and profoundly meaningful companion document to a standard Will.
As the conversations continue, a parent may want to consider preparing a Precatory Memo to accompany his or her Will. This non-binding document provides a way to indicate a person’s wishes for specific pieces of personal property, and helps mitigate the potential for conflicts over certain items by stating clearly what the decedent’s intentions were.
If family members find it difficult to have these kinds of conversations successfully (or, at all), it can be very helpful to engage an impartial party to help facilitate and mediate the dialog. A collaborative family meeting can help both parents and siblings ease into the process.
The key is to start talking sooner than later. Address any issues head on rather than letting them fester. While it may be funny to joke around the Thanksgiving turkey about who’s the favorite, when things get serious it’s critical that siblings know they have each other’s backs.
If you find yourself in a dispute about inheritance, give us a call – we can help you.