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Will family members end up fighting over an inheritance?

Many New Jersey residents know that their family members may end up arguing about their inheritance. Even if each inheritance is equal in value, those who are receiving them may not think so. One way to limit -- or eliminate -- those rivalries, is by being open about estate planning.

The problem with family members arguing over their inheritance is that it can quickly diminish the value. Timely and expensive court battles require the estate to spend more money. Further, the executor will spend more time and money maintaining the assets on behalf of the heirs and beneficiaries, which could affect an asset's value. At least a portion of these court battles are fueled by a misguided belief that how much each person inherits is a direct reflection of how much the individual loved him or her.

Often, this is not the case at all. Parents in New Jersey may decide that one child needs more assistance than another for numerous reasons. Explaining the reasoning behind these decisions could prevent arguments later. Another technique that many people use is to create a detailed list of assets, gather their intended heirs and let them choose the assets they want. An agreement can be made that, if more than one person wants a particular item, the final decision rests with the person from whom it will be inherited.

Once all of the decisions are made, they can be documented using a variety of estate planning documents. The way those documents are constructed could make the difference in forestalling arguments among the heirs and beneficiaries. The options for leaving an heir his or her inheritance are numerous. Ultimately, a well-documented estate plan can give everyone the peace of mind they are looking for.

Source: MarketWatch, "How to prevent family feuds when it comes to your inheritance", Glenn Ruffenach, Sept. 29, 2014

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