Most Americans would like their heirs to experience asset division without an undue amount of stress. However, it is not always possible to partition an estate evenly, and there is also the reality of different adult heirs having different levels of aptitude and interest when it comes to specific investments and assets.
Overall, reducing the possibility of discord after the death of a parent often depends on the communication avenues all parties put in place prior to the death. The AARP recommends involving a third party and putting down plans in writing.
The importance of a third party
There are several options for a neutral third party when estate planning. Choices can include personal wealth advisors, lawyers and bankers. However, the role of the third party is to prevent discussions from becoming overly heated. If you have a tense family situation, having the third party is non-negotiable.
The third party can also help provide valuable advice. They likely have helped many families through this process and can be a valuable ally.
Putting down plans in writing
It is almost never a good idea to split an asset between parties in an attempt to get the parties to reconcile over the asset. Emotions can be extremely raw after a death, and small tiffs can escalate into much bigger arguments. It is always better to try and equalize the overall asset distribution rather than divide custody of it if it is possible.
If the asset distribution is uneven for whatever reason, it is generally best to be open about this with the heirs. The sooner everybody knows about the plan, the better it is.