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Do you really want to do that to your family?

The days, months and years following the death of a loved one can be very difficult. Not only are those left behind mourning their loss, there are often mountains of paperwork to deal with. While a bulk of estate settlement duties fall to executors, successor trustees or other fiduciaries, unanswered questions and unequal treatment of heirs can lead to confusion and hard feelings.

Avoid setting up heirs for failure

Placing restrictions on transfers of wealth and assets can lead to family squabbles -- even lawsuits -- after you are gone. While you may have very good reasons for treating your children or other heirs differently, consider the long-term ramifications your estate plan can have.

  • Keeping property in the family: Forcing your children to keep the family home or to share a vacation property can lead to trouble. How will they fairly split the upkeep and maintenance? What happens if they disagree about whether repairs or remodeling are needed?
  • Family heirlooms: Discuss who will receive treasured family mementos before putting it in writing. Without asking, you may give one child an item another really wants. While family members are mourning, they are not as well equipped to divvy up personal items without causing hard feelings.
  • Favoring one over another: If you disagree with a child's lifestyle, there are ways to provide for each of your heirs according to his or her needs and abilities without making one feel slighted.

Talk with an estate planning attorney regarding the various estate planning options you have available. One, or a combination of options, may help your family stay on good terms with each other for years to come.

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