This is a brief personal experience story from guest writer, Alan Helvig:

My wife’s mom passed away in April of 2016.  My wife was one of 11 children.  There was a trust in place which named the oldest daughter as trustee.  In the interest of keeping the peace with her siblings, the trustee opened up the lines of communication and put most decisions to a vote by the siblings.  Do we keep mom’s house?  Do we rent mom’s house?  Do we sell mom’s house, etc.  Two of mom’s grandsons were living in the home at the time of her death.  Do we allow them to stay?  Do we give them money to move out?  How much do we charge them?  Who is paying the taxes, insurance and utilities?  As you might imagine, it was a tasking situation for quite a while.

Over the course of the next year and a half, the siblings agreed on some issues and disagreed on others.  Some wanted to keep the home in the family while others wanted the whole thing to go away.  Some wanted to buy the home at a discounted, residential price, while others wanted it sold for the highest possible price.  The home was situated in a commercial area which led to it being listed at a substantially higher price.  They were able to get an acceptable offer, remove the grandsons and sell the home.  After the closing, the siblings each received their share of the proceeds plus any reimbursements for contributions during the process.

During this time, the family made deliberate decisions not to get a professional appraisal and not to involve attorneys or CPA’s.  These decisions led to confusion, anxiety and potential legal pitfalls that had to be overcome.  Following the disbursement of the bulk of the proceeds, the issues were finally resolved and all matters put to rest.  If the trustee had maintained her autonomous control and been more focused on doing the right things for the right reasons instead of keeping the peace, she could have avoided a lot of pain and suffering.  In the end, there was still some animosity and hurt feelings between some of the siblings.

Lessons learned:  My wife and I went to Jessica Arends of Legacy Life Strategies for legal advice and established a living trust, new wills, and all necessary powers of attorney.  We wrote the trust in a way that will prevent these issues from recurring between our children when we both pass.  We assigned an outsider as the trustee and gave our kids NO voice and NO vote in the dissolution of our estate.  They will have ample opportunities to acquire the material possessions they desire, but may have to bid against each other at an estate sale auction.  Once all assets have been liquidated, their shares will be divided per the trust, as determined by the trustee.  In the end, our children and grandchildren will be the beneficiaries of our estate, but not at the expense of peace in the family.

Take care and God bless.

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