Alan D. Feller, Esq.
The Elder Law Guide to Family Grudges
Updated: Sep 15, 2020
Family grudges are expensive. When family members do not get along the ability to accomplish basic long term health care and estate planning tasks becomes disturbingly difficult. Families are economic and social entities like a small business or a corporation. Goals change over time. One family’s goals may be to have all seven children graduate from college and become self-supporting. Another family may aspire to capture the Yodeling World Championship. The goals I deal with are less lofty but just as important - providing a safe and comfortable living arrangement for an ill family member and preserving their estate.
A family that has minimal conflict can work together to delegate care responsibilities and efficiently gather the endless amounts of paperwork for Medicaid and estate planning. The fewer professional billable hours needed to accomplish these tasks translates to greater savings for the family. When a loved one passes and the survivors are on the same page the probate process can move quickly and the estate can be distributed for maximum benefit as intended.
Grudges shatter those expectations by devolving families into individual conflicts – brother
against sister, mother against daughter. Instead of a family unit working together burdens are shifted to single family members who often are overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of their responsibilities. This leads to greater reliance on outside services to handle long term care issues and alternative housing options. The cost for these services are high. There are
legitimate family grievances that do not have simple solutions. I completely understand. From my perspective this is less about cause than effect.
The effect is tremendous. Quarreling siblings hold up the probate process and diminish estates. Maybe the grandchildren will have to take out loans for college instead of utilizing the estate proceeds. I have seen a 20 year grudge end without fanfare, both grudge holders returning to old states of familiarity. But the grudge broke the family in a million ways – financially and emotionally. The holidays are here and we are reminded of all the slights, inequities and imbalances that exist in our families. Santa’s sleigh doesn’t make these feelings go away. Keep in mind the goals of your family and the best ways to achieve them.