Consider discussing your will with your family before you finalise it.
“A will is a private thing — and whatever you put into it is your business,” said Browne. “Where there’s a number of people in a family, it can be a good idea to sit down with them all — or sit down with them individually — and ask them what they want from your will. You may find that a person doesn’t want what you had planned to leave to them. The problem though is that whenever a family start to discuss what they want from a will, it can cause rifts before the person even dies.”
Avoid suggesting to people that you’re going to leave something to them — if you have no intention of doing so or if you haven’t already included such instructions in your will. You may die before making a will and should that happen, the person is unlikely to get what you promised them. Unfulfilled promises can be a major source of strife with inheritances. Many people have been promised inheritances of land sites, houses or cash — only to find that those assets have not been earmarked for them in a will. This can lead to disappointment and resentment.
“Don’t give someone the impression that you’re going to give them something if you haven’t already said so in a will,” said Browne. “Someone can be led to believe they’re going to inherit something and then they can be shocked when they don’t get it.”
Attaching conditions to an inheritance can be another major source of family rows. “If you are going to give someone something in a will, just give it to them,” said Browne. “Attaching conditions to something can cause massive family feuds — especially with property. People often leave the family home to someone on the condition that the property can be used by the rest of the family as a holiday home. That can cause war.”
Another major source of family rows is when one child is treated differently to others in a will. “Parents may decide that one child gets less than others,” said Patrick Murphy, managing director of Retirement & Life Planning, which runs retirement courses across the country. “Perhaps the child was put through college — when the others weren’t and so the child who received the college education may not be getting left as much. If you’re going to do something differently for one of your children, be sure to explain why. Your solicitor can put a letter into your will explaining this.”
An explanation should also be given if one child, relative or individual is being left much more than others in the family.