Even if you and/or your children are all grown-up, you can probably remember scenes of intense sibling rivalry when you or they were younger. In some families, that competition continues into adulthood; for others, it recedes as children age and mature. But it can all come flooding back while trying to divide up an estate after the death of a loved one, as argument ensue over who gets what.
If you die without a will, a probate court will decide, who will inherit your property. In some cases, the result may be quite contrary to your wishes. Try listing all of the assets you’ve accumulated: perhaps a house, car, jewelry, investments, family heirlooms, and more. Now ask yourself if you want the assets you have enjoyed during your lifetime be turned into instruments of family fighting and financial hardships. Without a properly executed estate plan these assets may create problems and expenses due to Federal inheritance laws and Massachusetts probate laws which allow for the appointment of strangers to make family decisions.
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Many people worry about state and federal estate taxes, but in reality most of us will not have a tax problem as the value of most estates are less than $1,000,000.00. However, the “kinfolk tax’ is a genuine concern. This Kinfolk Tax is the price paid by children, grandchildren and favorite charities when you do not express your wishes legally in a Will or Trust. This Kinfolk Tax is paid not only with money, but also with hard feelings that can and has destroyed many family relationships.
By simply taking a little time to set your estate in order you can eliminate many squabbles, costs, and preserve family relationships. Whatever the size of your estate, the first step is to have your intentions put in writing, either in a basic will or a will plus the trust documents that will be needed to carry out your wishes. An estate planning Attorney can help you make the best decisions for your situation.
Once you have a plan prepared, it is important that you discuss it with your family. If anyone has any questions about the details, or any quibbles, you can address them and put to rest any possible squabbles that may arise in the future. While your family should never dictate your actions, they should always be informed about them.
It is also a good time to discuss dividing up personal property, while you still have your mental capacity to do so. Arranging for the executor in the Will to divide personal property a spouse doesn’t want (such as furniture and jewelry) among children and others has the potential of causing problems. A better alternative is to put together a list with a description of the property and who you would like to have it. You can put this list together with input from your children to alleviate any hard feelings later, and leave it in a safe place with your other important papers.
Putting together an estate plan is not as intimidating as you may think, and it pays in big dividends after you are gone. Not having an estate plan in place can cost your family not only dollars and cents, but also may cost in family conflict.