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Reduce inheritance disputes by good communication

When Whitney Houston died a couple years ago, it was predicted by estate planning professionals that her will would be the source of strife in her family. That is because the will contained a provision that put a significant amount of money in trust for her daughter Bobbi Kristina, who was thought by some of Houston’s family to be too young to handle so much money. Not to mention the fact that whenever there is a lot of money at stake, people tend to fight.

Now, a couple years later, Bobbi Kristina has turned 21 and is set to receive her first distribution—this time it is a 10 percent distribution—under the trust.  Not only that, but she is now married and the family is speculated to be concerned about her husband’s interest in her inheritance. It is possible that there are battles to come for Houston’s family over her estate. 

Whatever ends up happening, it is important for readers to understand that thorough estate planning takes the possibility of disputes into account and incorporates strategies to limit them. It is not always possible to completely eliminate the possibility of disputes, of course, but there are various things one can do in the planning process to reduce their likelihood.

One of the biggest things people can do to reduce family fighting over inheritance is:  communicate, communicate, communicate. When family is aware of your wishes early on in the planning process, it gives them time to absorb the plan and avoids the element of surprise. While family may not agree with a decision, good communication can at least ensure that there is no dispute regarding your wishes. 

Source: Forbes, “Whitney Houston’s Family Is Fighting—Is Estate Money To Blame?,” Danielle and Andy Mayoras, March 31, 2014. 

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