October 12, 2023

Categories: Estate Planning

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What happens when “happily ever after” becomes “not-so-happy” anymore? Unresolved family issues can drive a wedge between family members, leading to strained or even estranged relationships. In a 2020 article published in The Atlantic, commentator David Brooks observed that “we’re likely living through the most rapid change in family structure in human history,” where “the causes are economic, cultural, and institutional all at once.”

As times and norms change, our plans for the future should too. Estate planning amid family estrangement can be challenging but important. Here are some steps to consider:

  • Communicate Your Intentions: While it can be uncomfortable to start the conversation, consider discussing your estate plan with family members to minimise surprises and misunderstandings. Be clear about your rationale, and it will also be helpful to maintain records of your estate planning decisions and the reasoning behind them. This can serve as evidence of your intentions if disputes should arise.
  • Document Your Wishes: Clearly outline your estate plan, including beneficiaries, assets, and distribution preferences in a will or trust. Be specific to reduce ambiguity and potential disputes.
  • Choose an Executor or Trustee Carefully: Select a trusted individual or professional to carry out your wishes. This person should remain neutral and capable of managing potential conflicts.
  • Designate Your Beneficiary: Utilise beneficiary designations for assets like life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and bank accounts. These designations typically override the will, making them useful for keeping assets out of family disputes.
  • Update Your Estate Plan Regularly: As family dynamics change, review and update your estate plan accordingly. This ensures it reflects your current intentions and circumstances.
  • Plan for the Unexpected: Work with your estate planner to include a “no contest” clause, which may discourage family members from challenging your will.

Remember that estate planning can be emotionally charged, but addressing it proactively can help minimise potential conflicts and ensure your wishes are carried out as intended. Consulting with an experienced financial services consultant can help you navigate the complexities of family dynamics more effectively. I will be happy to speak and share my insights with you.

Disclaimer:‍‍‍‍‍‍ Investment carries certain risks. You should not just rely on results as an indication of your financial needs. You should understand and familiarise yourself with any investment and the associated risks before investing. You are also recommended to seek professional advice ‍‍‍before making any decision to buy, sell or hold any investment or insurance product. The views and thoughts expressed in the post belong solely to us, and not to Manulife Financial Advisers Pte Ltd, or any other group of individuals.

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