As families struggle with their estate planning choices, I often hear my clients state with confidence that their families, children, siblings, get along very well. There will be no quarrels among them concerning the Personal Property or the larger assets of the estate.
I wish that were true – unfortunately – often it is not the case.
Some families start out with grudges and misunderstandings that are lingering from childhood. For these families, the disagreements and litigation can be anticipated.
Many other families do get along and it is impossible to believe that they will break down into a squabbling mess. It does happen.
The biggest area of contention is personal property. Why? Money can be divided accurately. With personal property, it is impossible to divide grandma’s antique teapot among three children. Also, personal property is charged with emotion and memories. The best solution is to talk today with your family and find out what is important to each of them – surprises lead to litigation.
Unanticipated events can lead to grudges and accusations. If you become ill and one family member takes the lead on your care, he or she may feel that they should be rewarded. Other family members may fail to say thank you and instead criticize decisions that are made. These misunderstandings lead to mistrust and disagreements when it comes time to divide property.
So, don’t leave things to chance, don’t think that your children or family members will all get along and do the right thing. Make certain that your decisions are well thought out and documented.Linda E. Wasielewski is a solo practice lawyer located in Traverse City focusing upon Estate Planning and Probate Law, providing legal services in Northern Michigan
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