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Wills and estate planning: Reducing the risk of family infighting

Sometimes, receiving an inheritance is not as easy and straightforward as it appears. Estate taxes, both state and federal can undermine the intentions behind wills and leave beneficiaries with much smaller inheritances than they thought they would receive. Also, fighting among heirs can escalate into legal battles as the New York court system tries to figure out a resolution that is fair.

Recent estimates show that individuals from the baby boomer population will receive an estimated $8.4 trillion in inheritances from the generation that came before them. That works out to an average single inheritance of around $64,000. Baby boomers who are set to inherit an estate that has been planned intelligently -- no matter what the size -- will benefit from a decreased likelihood of familial infighting.

Now more than ever, in today’s downward spiraling economy, families are more likely to fight about who gets what after the death of a parent. Disagreements could even arise over something small, like an article of clothing or a much-loved piece of art. Fortunately, parents can curb the chances of such disagreements by heeding important advice while planning their estates.

For example, one mistake made by New York estate planners involves bequeathing a business or property to multiple heirs jointly in their wills. It is possible that not all heirs will want to keep the property and/or some heirs will want to sell it, giving rise to disagreements and family infighting. Equal division of one’s assets is also encouraged instead of favoring one child or heir over another. Also, while everyone knows it is wise to plan their estates now -- as opposed to waiting until it is too late – the stronger an estate is planned, the less likely anyone will try to challenge its validity. Fortunately, estate planning professionals and attorneys can help New York residents draft their wills in a way that will reduce the risk of a family being torn apart.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Inheritance conflicts pit relatives against one another", Tim Grant, July 3, 2014

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