The probate process can put family members at odds with each other. Often, families fight over property, how to interpret a decedent’s wishes or how to administer an estate. Whether these types of battles are expected or not, they can put immense strain on family members.

To prevent the probate process from causing severed ties and irreparable damage on family members, every adult should have an estate plan in place. Not only does it protect a person’s wishes, an estate plan can also prevent family disputes in a few important ways.

Clarifying your wishes and intentions

Without making clear who should receive what property in your estate plan, you leave the decisions on what happens with this property to the courts or a stranger. This can lead to hurt feelings and undesirable distributions. 

In your estate plan, you can specify who should receive specific property. This prevents your loved ones from having to fight over what they think you might have wanted.

Providing direction

People can feel very lost after someone passes away. They can be unsure of what to do in terms of planning a funeral, donating a person’s assets to charity or spending money from an inheritance. And often, family members don’t see eye-to-eye on these matters.

Instead of leaving such difficult decisions to family members struggling with loss and grief, you can give them clear guidance on what you want them to do. 

Making the difficult decisions

Even if family issues are minor or decades old, they can take center stage during probate. Resentments can boil over; estranged relatives can come back demanding property; perceived favoritism among children can reignite sibling rivalries.

To prevent these fights — or at least to stop them from getting worse than they already may be — you can use an estate plan to make difficult decisions. This could mean explicitly leaving someone out, leaving uneven inheritances or setting rules for trust payouts. Making these decisions (as kindly and clearly as possible) in an estate plan means your loved ones won’t have to figure them out themselves or accept a court’s decision that does not align with family dynamics.