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The death of a family member brings the family together to share their grief, but then things can get ugly. For example, the daughter of the deceased may announce that her mom promised her the car, but her brother may contest that the car was promised to him. A fight can potentially lead to a split family.
The purpose of a well-crafted estate plan is to give clarity to your wishes so that splitting your assets doesn’t split your family
First, list the most important or valuable items. Your will can get long if you try to list every possession, so create a written statement naming who gets what.
Next, ask your family who values which items the most. From a legal standpoint, it doesn’t have to be witnessed, but if you expect it to be challenged, have it witnessed, dated, and keep that statement with your Will. Make things easy for your executor and your heirs, by taping a note to an item such as furniture or artwork with the name of its new owner.
You may want to direct in your will that some items be sold. It may make sense to sell items of great value and distribute the proceeds. You can, for example, direct a valuable painting to be auctioned off and the proceeds split equally.
Another option is to give everything away while you are alive. The more you distribute now, the less stuff that needs to be dealt with after your death.
When you give gifts, make sure everyone knows about them so that the person receiving the gift is not accused of stealing after your death.
You can make a “deed of gift” for tangible personal property retaining the right to keep things in your home as long as you live. For tax reasons, it may be better not to gift highly appreciated property, like your home or investments, during your life because the new owner will lose the step-up basis.
Get appraisals. Knowing what things are worth may guide your decisions. You can stipulate that the assets be sold and the proceeds divided evenly. If an heir wants the asset, they can choose to buy out the others.
Use a lottery. Some prefer to keep it simple. Your will or trust can authorize your executor or trustee to put names or numbers in a hat and have beneficiaries draw for the order to choose items.
Children support their parents in unequal ways, so disagreements may surface, causing serious tension. If one of your children provides most of your care, make sure your will is extremely clear to avoid strife.
Remember that after your death, you won’t be around to talk your family through any disagreements.
Proper estate planning can remove the stressors, tax burden, and decision-making from your heirs while they are grieving your loss. This should be the time to reconcile and forgive.
We are ready to help you find the best solution for you and your family. Call Chuck Bendig.