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Does your estate plan prevent future family disputes?

Your estate plan should be individually tailored to your wishes, your situation and your family. One thing you might want to consider about your estate plan is whether it is likely to prevent future family disputes or cause them. This is an especially appropriate consideration in light of International Day of Families, which is coming up on May 15.

One thing you should know is that a will, while usually necessary, isn't a one-size-solves-all-problems solution. Wills have limitations, and they act more as a guide in court probate proceedings than as a protection for certain heirs. Understanding the probate laws in New York and how they will interact with any will you create is important, because that understanding lets you know whether other legal arrangements must be made. You know best how your family might deal with a situation, but an estate lawyer knows how the courts will work. By working together, you can decide if you need more than a will.

If you do need more than a will, you might consider establishing one or more trust. A trust can be a good idea if you want to protect a vulnerable or marginalized heir. For example, a trust can provide for a minor child or set aside funds for an heir that you think the rest of the family might side against. You can put a certain amount of assets in the trust and still leave plenty for other heirs, possibly reducing fighting.

Besides clear, strong legal estate plans, speaking with your family about your intentions is a good step to reducing fighting. If heirs are prepared for what happens after you pass away, they might be less apt to argue about it.

Source: U.S. News and World Report, "How to Avoid Fights Over Inheritance," David Francis, accessed April 29, 2016

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