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Talking to heirs may avoid conflicts after death

An estate plan is formulated to express the wishes of the one making the plan. However, a New Jersey resident’s heirs have to live with those wishes. If an individual is not careful, one's heirs could end up resenting each other after he or she passes away.

It may be a good idea to sit down with heirs and explain to them how an estate will be distributed after death. They do not necessarily have to approve of the choices a person makes, but they may better understand the thought behind each inheritance. This could avoid confrontations between family members that might last for years.

Often, the disappointment, arguing and even legal challenges may not stem from greed, but instead from the feeling that they were not valued as much as another family member appeared to be. This may not be the case at all, however. Gifts made to one person during life could essentially be considered a deduction from his or her inheritance. Another family member may receive more after death because he or she did not receive the same gifts during life.

Each New Jersey resident has a unique estate plan. The documents may be the same, but what is in them varies from person to person. Numerous options are available in estate planning, and if a person’s heirs view inheritances as “unequal” without understanding why, the very problems a person was hoping to avoid through careful planning could still end in confrontation.

The final decision of how to divide an estate remains with the individual. What a person's heirs receive and how they receive it can be spelled out in wills and trusts. How one person inherits a portion of a loved one's estate may depend on that individual's life and how the person making out the will or trust believes those assets would best serve each person. This is one of the most important decisions made during the estate planning process.

Source: Forbes, "How To Make Sure Your Children Keep Speaking To Each Other After You Die", Mark Eghrari, June 4, 2014

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