Elder Law: Keeping family feuds from becoming legal feuds


There are as many reasons for family feuds as there are families; all are unique. In most cases, but certainly not all, they are about money. If the feud cannot be righted by the parties involved, it must be resolved by a judge.

By planning ahead, you can minimize the likelihood that the feud will end up going to court. For example:

  • If you want to provide for that “special niece” but don’t want to mention it to anyone else while you are alive, indicate in your will that you intended to make a gift to any joint owner of any account on which the joint owner is named. Alternatively, if that’s not your intention, say that in your will.
  • If you intend that one of your children will continue to live in your house after you die, make sure that child signs a lease specifying that he or she will pay the taxes and insurance.
  • Include a clear mechanism for removing and replacing a trustee who may be abusing his or her power. Otherwise, it will take a judge to do the removing.
  • Write down the way in which you want to be treated if you are incapacitated so that both your health care agent and your medical providers are comfortable that you are being treated according to your wishes.

As I have learned over the past 44 years of legal practice, most of these feuds can be avoided. You just need to plan ahead.

If you want to learn more about family feuds, check out my October seminar on Frank and Mary’s YouTube channel, youtube.com/elderlawfrankandmary, and your local cable station, MVTV, along with the “Frank and Mary on the Vineyard” cable TV show, where my co-host, Sandie Corr-Dolby, and I address many common issues facing seniors and the resources available. If you have any questions, please contact me at 508- 860-1470 or abergeron@mirickoconnell.com.

Arthur and Leah are elder law attorneys in the trusts and estates group at Mirick O’Connell.