The Hatfield-McCoy feud history miniseries brings to my mind the troubles that families get into when parents neglect their estate planning. Families are at their weakest at the death of a loved one. In this compromised state, it is easy for feelings to be hurt and lasting family battles ensue. Estate planning is one of the best ways to prevent a future family feud.

If you are not familiar with story, the Hatfield-McCoy feud took place in the mountainous region that separates West Virginia from Kentucky known as the Tug River Valley. In the late 1800s, Randle McCoy accused Floyd Hatfield of stealing his hog. The dispute ended up in court and a jury of six McCoys and six Hatfields heard the case. At the end of the trial, one of the McCoys voted with the Hatfields for acquittal. That McCoy worked for the Hatfields and cast his vote to save his job. The McCoys felt cheated and several armed confrontations between the families followed. The ill will between the families escalated and violence between the families began in earnest. This feud became legend.

You may be saying to yourself, my brother and I would never fight over anything. That may be right, but I have seen time and again that when the parents die, children often try to get material things to help them fill the loss. They may not understand this feud psychological response, but it is very real. The item represents to them the love of their parent. If they are denied the item, it is like suffering through a second death. I know of a case where one brother shot his other three siblings because of a fight over the family cabin. I have seen many cases where the siblings have not spoken to each other for years.

And it is not enough to just get a will. Sure the will may divide your property up, but what about the doilies and dollies? Dad only has one shotgun, and there is only one doll cradle that he made by hand. In my family, we all remembered playing Pollyanna with our grandma. When she passed on, every one of my 56 cousins wanted that Pollyanna game board, but there was only one. I have seen fights over very trivial items tear families apart. Don’ let your family become a Hatfield-McCoy legend. In my book, Protecting Your Financial Future, I cover how to fairly and legally dispose of your personal items so that your kids can be mad at you, but not their siblings.

Leave a Reply