Nobody likes to think of heirs fighting over possessions, money or power after his or her death, but this is an all too common reality. Many people lose parts of their inheritance due to battles over the estate, but New York residents can lower the risk of a dispute with proper estate planning.

Before you can divide up your assets, it is important to have an accurate value of their worth. Some people have valuable antiques or rare books and don’t know it or may think that a possession has great monetary value when it does not. Understanding the current value of your assets and whether they are likely to appreciate or depreciate ensures you are well informed as you begin to divide things fairly.

Contrary to popular belief, fair does not always have to mean equal, however, and there are many different factors that go in to determining an object’s full worth. A costume jewelry collection, for example, may have very little monetary value but great sentimental value. It’s also important to take into consideration the status of each individual heir. Some heirs may benefit more by inheriting real estate, while others may have medical expenses that could be eased by a monetary inheritance.

Appointing an executor of your estate who will ensure your wishes are carried out can go a long way toward preventing disputes, but informing your family of your wishes and what they will inherit before your death can also help. Whether you are unsure of how to draw up a thorough estate plan or are an heir considering challenging an existing will, a probate and estate administration attorney can help.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “When Heirs Collide” Liz Moyer, Sep. 26, 2014