Isn’t it amazing when you stand in the playground full of toddlers and young children and listen. The alliances formed, the exclusion of others, shifting loyalties and best of all the juvenile arguments – “ You’re not my friend any more” “ you’re not having any of my sweets” etc etc etc.. All adults, well most of them stand there with the same look on their faces, embarrassment (if the child is theirs) exasperation, amusement and quite possibly bewilderment. We all like to think that we are quite far removed from this behaviour, but are we?
Families are fragile alliances the best of times – think grown-up playgrounds! Ask yourself this question “who have you fallen out with recently and why?”. Sometimes the most trivial slight or the most innocuous comment can bring a red mist down. Perceived slights and mistimed words can cause breakdowns in communication that can go on for years. So now add into the equation emotions following a bereavement. There is your recipe for a good old family ding dong.
Wills tend to be contentious some of the time, well quite a lot of the time and that is with the facts written in black and white. Most families don’t fall out over the big issues, they, as the saying goes do “sweat the small stuff”. While one person may think they should keep every chap stick mum ever owned their sibling(s) that they had got along with perfectly well until the bereavement might think it is appropriate to order a skip the day after the funeral. Sentimental items tend to bring about the biggest conflicts, mum’s collection of Victorian spoons, dad’s collection of Accrington Stanley football programmes. Most commonly used phrase is “ he/she said I was to have it” well, there is no way of proving or disproving this, thus let chaos reign.
There are several ways to avoid unnecessary conflict but the simple solutions are usually the easiest and the best option, not to mention the most cost effective. To help avoid any conflict after you have gone or at the very least minimise the possiblity of conflict we would suggesst that you write a letter of wishes to go with your Will. A letter of wishes to accompany your Will frequently details your reasons for making the gifts you have made in your Will. Although not legally binding it is a clear set of instructions on who is to have what. Another strategy could be to sit your entire family down at the next family gathering such as Christmas, Weddings etc. and let them know in no uncertain terms who is to get what and there are to be no arguments. But the best will always be your choice of executors, you would never choose Tom and Jerry as executors because they would fight like cat and mouse! Similarly never pick two executors who have opposing views or are likely to fall out. Everyone likes to think that their children get on but I refer back to the playground. How about including someone with no interest in the Will such as an old friend who knows the family very well. They will respect everyones wishes whilst remaining neutral and carrying out yours. Lastly, you could always choose a professional who would remain above the petty and take a totally independent position. Or even a combination of all of these!
If you need any furher advice on preventing family conflict, choosing executors, letters of wishes or Wills please do not hesitate to contact me Mark Hill on 01733 511060 or 0208 8996620 or firstname.lastname@example.org.