This morning I ran across an article on ABC 30 discussing the family fight over certain rights to the Forestier Underground gardens. As is not too uncommon, once one or both of the parents pass away, sibling rivalry tends to amplify, old wounds are opened, and family members square off against each other. In my experience, many parents have a "hope" that at their deaths, their children will learn to get along and will grow together as they seek to run the family business side-by-side. Unfortunately, this rosey outlook is the exception rather than the rule.
Fortunately, there are steps families can take now to help reduce any family friction that might arise after their deaths. One technique is to name a trusted independent trustee that all the family members know and respect. This trustee will be given decisionmaking authority as to the fair division of the assets and even decision-making authority over aspects of the family business. Another technique is to let children now ahead of time what your testamentary wishes are so that at death there are no surprises. Finally, we occasionally recommend that parents actually divide up their estate and make gifts to their childen prior to their deaths so that there is no question as to the parents' intentions.