How to Reduce Potential Quarreling Among Your Beneficiaries

As unfortunate as it is, the beneficiaries of one’s estate often wrangle over the disposition of the property the decedent has passed on — sometimes even to the point where they become estranged from each other.

While such dissension may never be entirely eliminated (the desire for acquisition is in our human nature), it may be muted by our doing the following:

  1. “Spell out” in your trust or will the individuals who are to receive particular items of your real or personal property — that is, to the extent you have specific desires as to any such property.  In this connection, it may be of future help if you advise each of your beneficiaries now what he or she is to receive in the future.  If you don’t tell them now, surprises later can lead to a big dispute.  For example, one of your children may even later question your competency in making the gift you did, or challenge your disposition as being made under the undue influence of one of your other children.
  2. Where you do not have a specific objective as to whom should receive any particular item of property, be sure to give the successor trustee of your trust or executor of your will the right and power to sell such property and distribute the proceeds.
  3. Where your concern is to give an “equal value” in the property itself (not proceeds from its sale) to each of several beneficiaries — for example — “an equal value of your tangible personal property to each child,” specify in your trust or will that such property is to be appraised, and then divided, piece by piece, based upon that value — perhaps with the added provisions that the successor trustee of your trust or executor of your will is to take into account in such distribution the particular preference(s) of any beneficiary as to a particular item(s) of such property, with the trustee or executor to make the ultimate determination.  In this connection, where you don’t want such trustee or executor to have to carry the burden of having to make any particular allocation of such property, you could provide that all such beneficiaries would have to come to a mutual agreement as to who gets what, before such property would be distributed.

There’s no perfect solution to prevent the occurrence of dissension among beneficiaries, but implementing the above suggestions could help.

The above statements are not to be taken as legal advice for the reader’s particular situation.

Richard F. McEntyre practices law in the area of estate planning and administration, having served the San Diego community as a lawyer for over 40 years.  Chris von der Lieth is Dick’s associate lawyer, having worked with Dick for over 6 years.  Affordable rates.  Highest quality services.  House calls available.  Our office is conveniently located at 2615 Camino Del Rio South, Suite 101 (in Mission Valley just east of Bully’s restaurant) (Telephone (619) 221-0279);

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