It goes without saying that everyone in New York can use some type of estate plan. For those who are facing the prospect of a significant tax bill because they have major assets, it is not enough to have an estate plan. It is also necessary to have a grasp on how the family situation might complicate matters. For the testator, it is imperative to understand how family disagreements and potential sticking points can be problematic and take the necessary steps to avoid them.

There have been cases where large estates have been greatly diminished because of litigation over the estate. For families, there are certain common denominators that can be indicators of potential trouble ahead. If it is a blended family, the estate plan should indicate which heirs get what from the estate. With estrangement between family members, it can be even more difficult. Some estranged parents will still want to leave certain assets to children whether there is a relationship or not.

Trusts can be used, but that can also lead to contentiousness between siblings if one is viewed as “favored” because they were named the trustee. Selecting a person who is suited for the role is preferable. Even people who do not have a massive portfolio should have an idea as to where the assets they do have will go. In fact, it might be more important in these cases since there will be less overall. The beneficiaries’ best interests should be factored in.

Ensuring that the intent is clear and there is no foundation for confusion with what the testator might have wanted can smooth the process. Finally, independent trustees could keep the family members from a protracted court battle or endless disagreement. There is no doubt that the act of having an estate plan is a good start in preparing for the future, but knowing exactly what kind of devices should be in the plan and how best to make them succeed requires legal assistance. A lawyer experienced in estate planning can help.