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Steps to help avoid inheritance conflicts

Few things have more potential to jeopardize peace within a California family than arguments over a deceased loved one's estate. A parent who gives a new spouse his or her inheritance while omitting children, for example, can cause extreme frustration and stress for would-be heirs who may have benefited substantially from the inheritance. Individuals who are in the midst of establishing their wills can make some general considerations in order to avoid pitting their surviving relatives against one another in the future.

Adequate communication with family members is vital to the process. Things with major sentimental value to certain relatives might get lost in the shuffle without advance communication, possibly leading to conflict. Along these lines, setting up a will and related documents while one is healthy can help ensure that the decisions made within are logically sound. Fairness in the division of assets should help to avert tension between heirs. A possible situation in which this could hold especially true may involve one child having held greater responsibility for an ailing parent's care than the others.

Finally, keeping documents involving insurance, retirement funds and house ownership current can avert significant disputes over the estates of remarried individuals. A home whose ownership is set to transfer to a deceased spouse, for example, could create a complicated situation for a widow or widower if left unchanged.

Many heads of households face complications in the estate planning process yearly. Slight errors of omission, failure to consider each relative's expectations and outdated documentation can cause tremendous headaches for surviving family members upon a person's death. An estate planning attorney's perspective and experience may be crucial in helping a person avoid making possibly contentious mistakes in a will.

Source: The Fiscal Times, "4 Wise Ways to Avoid a Family Feud Among Heirs", Sheryl Nance Nash, June 16, 2014

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