“What should I know about your family dynamics? For example, how do your kids get along? What is your relationship like with them?”
Clients sometimes are taken aback when I ask them questions like these during our Family Succession Strategy Sessions. I am not asking these questions to pry into their private lives. But the answers are important so that I can offer concrete strategies to meet their planning goals.
The answers are also important because clients do not hire me to tell them what they want to hear; to paint a rosy picture that life will be hunky dory for their loved ones when they are gone.
I remind clients that part of my job is to play devil’s advocate and paint worst case scenarios, or at least realistic scenarios, of how their loved ones will act with one another when they are gone.
In my experience, there is no such thing as a “Leave It To Beaver” family. Not everyone will get along all the time. And when you add money to the equation, all bets are usually off.
That said, I am always pleasantly surprised when I am proven wrong and do work with surviving family members who agree on the division and disposition of assets.
An oft area of contention is a parent’s home when it is inherited by multiple children. You can imagine that the more fingers in the decision making process, the less likely that everyone can agree on what to do with the house.
Several years ago, I handled an estate where three children inherited their mother’s home. One of the sons, a ne’er do well who could never hold down a job and never had two nickels to rub together, thought, “Aha! A free place to live finally!,” and immediately moved into the family home.
The other two siblings had their own lives and decent jobs in other cities and had no intention of moving back to Pensacola. They wanted to sell the home and had no intention of footing their brother’s household expenses, such as the insurance, taxes, utilities, etc.
And the brother? He had no intentions of selling the home because he had a good gig going—free room and board, at least until the tax collector came a’knockin’ in a few years to sell the house out from under the siblings for failing to pay the property taxes.
My advice? Hire a real estate lawyer and file a partition lawsuit to force the sale of the home. Although not ideal since forced sales usually do not bring as high of a sales price as a private sale (but in the current seller’s market in Pensacola, who knows?), at least the brother cannot hold his siblings hostage in a co-ownership situation.
This is just one topic that I frequently address with my clients. What should happen to the family home?
A qualified estate planning professional should be asking you lots of questions to force you to think about how your loved ones will act in the future.
Any estate planning professional worth his (or her) salt won’t just sell you documents that you think you need.
A qualified estate planning professional will take a holistic approach to your planning, explore all of your options, and make solid suggestions based thereon, before helping you craft the best Family Succession Plan to meet your needs and fit your unique situation.
That is what we will do at our private Family Succession Strategy Session for Florida residents which you can schedule online here.
No family is perfect and I don’t expect yours to be either.
However, with solid Family Succession Planning in place, we can go a long way towards minimizing the opportunity for your loved ones to fight when you are no longer here to act as peacemaker.
Kristen “Devil’s Advocate” Marks