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Gainesville Florida Estate Planning & Elder Law Blog

Monday, February 10, 2014

Avoiding Estate Fights

Eighty-six percent of baby boomers and 74 percent of Americans 72 and older said keeping their family history alive through stories and keepsakes is the most important piece of their legacy. Baby boomers agree that family tradition is more important than money being left behind for them by their parents. Possessions and keepsakes are what make a family memorable and unique, not their monetary value.

Even though many agree that in order to keep their family tradition alive families must pass down mementos and personal possessions, this often causes conflict after a relative dies on who shall inherit what. Additionally, families often fail to accurately record their histories so many stories die with the elder family member.

To avoid problems, families should start talking early about which family members might life certain keepsakes. This conversation could happen while discussing an estate plan. While many parents might think it’s easiest to group keepsakes together and have your children share them, this is what causes families to split apart after a loved one dies. Another tip would be to sit with older relatives and label family photos, so future generations can understand their lineage.

Furthermore, when the estate plan is developed it should include a will, a trust, a power of attorney, a health care power of attorney and a living will. You should also create a memorandum that goes into detail on how you wish your personal possessions to be divided up. This document should be specific and may cause less conflict between family members. A common approach to this is that the oldest member in the room is allowed to pick one item in the room and this continues by age.

Although every family inevitably has favorite members, during this process you should treat all family members equally to avoid discord.

However, you will also have to choose your estate’s executor, which is ultimately giving power to one family member. This person may need to appear is court to sign documents. The executor gets complicated in the case of remarriages because a stepsibling’s actions may be questioned by the previous or later marriage. In this case, it is common to hire a corporate fiduciary as executor through your bank or trust company.

An ethical will gives you the opportunity to share family values and life stories in a one-page document, or even a bound book. These are often difficult to write, but always worth it for your family left behind.


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