Handler notes that 90% of the strategies used out there by estate planners are done on a naked basis.

To be sure, there is no way to stop any one from litigating anything. But there are ways to reduce the possibilities for contestments.

Let’s take a look at some of the most well-known estate battles: Anna Nicole Smith’s $300 million contest of the J. Howard Marshall II estate; the Leona Helmsley $12 million estate contest over the amount she left to her dogs; a $233 million contest from the $7.7 billion Sumner Redstone estate brought by his daughter and son; and who could forget the $1 billion contest by 11 family members over the value of the $15 billion Jay Pritzker estate and who got what?

Handler has had to step into the snake pit of estate plan contestments, many of which he says could have been avoided with simple acts of communication.

“In the process of doing the estate plan itself, we have the opportunity to coach the family to inform people either during their life or by using something called a ‘letter of wishes’ or an estate plan adjunct letter to explain why something happens. [For example], if there are three children and two are treated the same and the third one gets less, the third child may forget that he or she had a $50,000 loan to come out of their share because it never got repaid. So we recommend a letter. It could say, ‘Hey, I want you to know that I love you. I’m trying to treat you all equally, and that’s why you don’t have the same distribution as your two siblings.’”

Also included in a letter could be emotional things, Handler says. For example, “I gave you this painting because I wanted you to have some connection to your grandfather.” That type of thing.

A letter of explanation can help people avoid the stress, the anger and the animosity that can break apart a family and make the relationships among that generation of siblings worse. Such anger can also lay the foundation for bad relations among later generations.

“Communication is the key in helping to identify steps for households,” Handler says. There is another edge to the sword, as well. He has seen bad communication cause ill will. This kind of communication usually comes in the form of a threat; something like, “Look, if you challenge this, you need to know that you’re getting air.” Such provocations rarely end up doing just service to the estate.

With a solid estate plan in place, a family office can be more efficacious and produce better capital performance—and perhaps even beget mergers and acquisitions with other family offices.

The number of family offices is still growing.