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Tips to avoid and deal with inheritance disputes

Estate planning is something that many individuals put off. Few people like to contemplate death and what will happen to their assets and belongings once they pass. In many cases, individuals who die have not taken the steps necessary to devise a comprehensive estate plan. Common estate planning errors range from not having a will at all to failing to update beneficiaries. In these types situation, disputes among surviving family members and friends are common.

In order to prevent potential conflict related to inheritance disputes a parent or grandparent dies, individuals would be wise to communicate their wishes and ensure they have the proper legal documents to carry out those wishes. When contemplating estate planning matters, many individuals get caught up on the concept of trying to be fair. If a couple has three children, it's often assumed that all three children will receive assets totaling the same amount. In reality, however, such a plan often backfires and fails to take into account sentimental valuation of personal effects along with the existing wealth and abilities of grown children.

When possible, major decisions related to family finances and inheritance matters should be discussed with all interested parties present. Doing so allows all family members the opportunity to voice opinions and raise issues that may in turn impact who gets what and how much of it. For example, if a father of five owns a business and only two of the grown children are interested and committed to continue running the business this is important information that may impact inheritance decisions.

Unfortunately, even when families attempt to openly communicate, inheritance disputes still arise. In these cases, it's important to seek the advise of a legal professional who has experience handling matters related to estate disputes. Such disputes among family members and interested parties are often complex and wrought with conflict and raw emotions. It's important, therefore to enlist the assistance of a legal professional who can provide sound legal advice and help provide for a favorable outcome.

Source: Wealth Management, "Avoiding Family Conflicts During Estate Planning," E. Patricia Chantler and Wonsun Willey, May 15, 2013

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