When dealing with dysfunctional family relationships, you have to be ready to adapt and modify. In other words, be creative. Taking a hard stance and expecting others to “take it or leave it” is rarely a successful strategy when dealing with anybody—let alone dysfunctional relations.
While the typical Trust or Will lawsuit is rather complex, there are ways to get creative in nearly every case. Primarily because most people are not necessarily looking to get everything they say they want. What most people want more than anything is a symbolic win. Something that validates their position and provides a sign of respect for their relationship to the decedent. Don’t get me wrong, people want money too, but not every asset is created equal when it comes to family assets.
For example, tangible personal property, things like family heirlooms, photos, furniture, and keepsakes can be paramount in a party’s mind when fighting over an estate. Such items may seem petty or worthless to others, but the symbolic value of such property can carry a good deal of weight. And giving personal items to a party who cares about such things can go a long way to showing respect and providing a symbolic victory. Best of all, the victory can be given without any real loss of monetary value! Talk about a win-win situation.
This is just one example. There have been many times when we have been able to work out creative solutions. Another good example is giving a surviving spouse a life estate in real property—allowing them to live there until they either pass away or move into a care facility—and then allowing the children to obtain the property thereafter is a great strategy for giving the same property to two different people.
A creative solution may not always work, but getting creative increases the chances of finding common ground in litigated matters that otherwise would never be available to parties if they remained entrenched in their positions.