The death of a parent or loved one can be a hard and deeply emotional experience. Moreover, it becomes more complicated if there is no will, or one that is poorly written. Experts always advise people to put some real thought into a will and work with an estate law attorney to address issues that go much further than dividing the furniture.
A well-considered will can make it easier on survivors because the important decisions (save those unforeseen issues that arise) are considered and addressed. This can avoid igniting long simmering emotions or highlighting schisms that sometimes form in families. Along with the following tips, an experienced attorney can help guide clients through the decision-making process and help spot potential areas of trouble.
Name the right executor: Pick the person in the family who has the ability and interest in fulfilling the obligations of the job, which requires a lot of paperwork, an understanding of finance, and a certain level of communication skills. If the estate involves a complex portfolio of assets perhaps including ownership of a business, a knowledgeable estate law attorney may be best for guiding the family through probate. They can also be a neutral third party who can equitably address or resolve issues that arise among beneficiaries.
Include personal property: Have a discussion with family members about family heirlooms and personal property. Passionate fights among survivors can erupt over a favorite family portrait, a Christmas tree ornament, or great grandmother’s engagement ring.
Explain any unequal bequests: It is hard to argue when assets are evenly split, but perhaps the youngest son spent several years living with and caring for the parents while other siblings pursued careers far from home. This has left him with limited finances, so you want to give him the house or a larger percentage of the money. If this is the case, it is often best to let everyone know ahead of time so the family can get used to the idea. If not when you are alive, then explain the rationale in the will.
Be smart about money: Surviving spouses need to be provided for, but should the second husband get everything until he dies? In addition, it is wise to avoid giving a large lump sum to young adults, those who have trouble managing money, or those with chemical dependency issues. Moreover, a business owner may want the business to stay in the family, but she or he will need to plan for that transition and the structure of the new ownership. Working with an estate law attorney can address any money issue and help avoid unnecessary expenses and tax obligation.
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