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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.

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