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Estate Planning Mistake #3: Letting Your Heirs Fight Over Your Personal Effects

It’s been my experience that parents are often the only thing keeping their adult children from tearing each other’s heads off over every disputed matter or perceived slight. And, once the parents are gone, the fighting often reaches new levels of insanity. This is often particularly the case when it comes to the division of a parent’s personal and household effects after death.

If you own personal effects that you know are valuable (think coin collections, gun collections, vintage cars, antiques, etc.), it’s probably not a good idea to simply say in your Last Will and Testament that everything is to be divided equally between your children or other intended heirs. I’ve found in my practice that you can often prevent a lot of arguments from occurring down the road if you take the time to have your clients provide detailed written instructions with respect to how certainly valuable assets that they own are to be divided up after they’re gone.

I often advice my clients to prepare a written letter that they will sign and keep with their other estate planning documents that clearly spells out which child or other heir is what particular item as well as the current location where same can be found. For example, you might store a vintage car or other valuable asset at a site different from your home and, if the children or other heirs are not aware of this, same may never be located or gifted as you intended. The written letter doesn’t have to be 15 pages long, but it should certainly address those important items that you’d like particular individuals to receive. The letter should be signed and dated and it’s probably not a bad idea to sign it in front of a notary public. You also want to make sure that someone that you particularly trust and have confidence in keeps and maintains the letter for you so that it cannot be easily destroyed after you death by and individual who might not like what it says.

Remember, the more steps you take when you’re alive to spell out your specific intentions with respect to how your assets will be distributed after your death, the less potential fighting over same there will be. Bottom line: Don’t procrastinate until it’s too late. Simple estate planning is not complicated and can typically be accomplished at a very reasonable price. Don’t leave your hard earned legacy up to chance. Take appropriate steps today to ensure that your loved ones are protected and that your wishes are carried out.

At American Wills & Estates we have been guiding clients throughout Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania through both the estate planning and probate estate administration process with competency, compassion and care for over 25 years. Call us today to schedule your free legal consultation, or visit us online at www.americanwillsandestates.com

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