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  • Writer's pictureAlan D. Feller, Esq.

Fighting Families

It is always a pleasant surprise when parents and their adult children arrive in my office in a state of harmony and good cheer. Elder care attorneys bear witness to all types of family units, a fair number experiencing some form of conflict. Children and parents can summon a boatload of reasons why they dislike and avoid each other. Like peeling a damaged banana, so many disappointments lie on and just beneath the surface.

In a world of thankless tasks, advising family members to stop fighting is one of the most thankless. However, employing blunt logic can sometimes move the needle toward a temporary truce. Families that fight lose money. The foundational documents for estate and elder care planning require the selection of trusted individuals to oversee your health and money. Families that fight tend to put off planning, because there is no point person to maintain family balance. Money that could be used to pay for a grandchild’s college or a home down payment is instead kept under lock and key, because of family conflict. The whole family suffers because financial resources are not flowing to the right sources at the right times.

Medicaid or long-term care planning is one junction where a family can work to preserve assets while obtaining Medicaid eligibility. This planning may require a Power of Attorney or Trust that relies on one or more trusted people to provide assistance and transfer resources. A family that fights usually has fractured relationships and a lack of willing participants. Turning to Trust companies or financial institutions to administer Trusts is one option, but the Trust will pay commissions and fees that may otherwise not be paid if a family member was in charge.

Probating a Will is relatively painless if a family gets along. Probating a Will can take nightmarish turns if there is conflict. In New York, all distributees (heirs at law) of the person that died must consent to the Will being admitted to probate and the chosen Executor. This includes heirs that may have been disinherited or had their inheritance reduced. In this case, not getting along with your family has a direct financial impact on your estate. Disgruntled family members can contest a Will or request special proceedings to dive into a Will’s formation – delaying probate and causing financial problems. Estate assets including homes fall into disrepair, lowering a potential sale price when there is fighting.

We know that you have valid reasons for being mad. Your parents should be more caring. Your children should not have blamed you. Your siblings took advantage of the situation and that was not right. Ok. Who is going to help you when you get sick and need care? Who is going to help your kids with college tuition? Try to get along a little bit and maybe some things in your life are easier. Or, don’t get along, and pay back your loans for 25 years.

A successful family focuses on the big picture – securing the future of the next generations while safeguarding the health and financial security of the adult generations. Families that fight just lose and keep losing. As an eldercare attorney who works with families every day, there are enough common bonds and shared interests to refocus a family from disagreements to positive action. It may not be easy, but it is worth pursuing.

Contact Sloan and Feller to get planning started today.

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