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Families can complicate estate planning

Family members can complicate lives and dealing with assets after relatives die. Following through on estate planning and communicating with heirs can avoid many family disputes over inheritances.

Many families, especially wealthy ones, must deal with sibling rivalry. To address this, parents should explain their estate plans, their goals, the reasons for their choices and that they are comfortable with their plans.

Some ideas, however, can increase family tensions such as naming one a trustee who can set limits over their brothers and sisters. Instead, selecting an impartial corporate trustee can avoid this problem.

No sibling should be cut out of the will, according to experts. Some money should be left to each sibling and an explanation should be given on any differences with the inheritances.

A letter of intention setting forth reasons for the smaller inheritance can also lower the potential for a lawsuit. A stipulation can be entered where the heir with the lower inheritance will lose that smaller amount if they file a lawsuit.

Blended families of children of different marriages may also pose problems. There may be valid reasons for treating them differently. These should be set forth in a letter setting forth the parents' reasons. Discussions can also allow a full explanation of their inheritances and the value of what is being left to each family member, especially for sentimental personal property.

Families often have members who are financially irresponsible or are improperly influenced by friends and spouses. Creation of a trust can help prevent unreasonable speculation or draining of an inheritance.

Payments under a trust may be delayed or restricted to certain uses. For family members suffering from substance abuse, the trust can require drug testing or treatment or continued sobriety before assets are released.

An attorney can help prepare for these issues and present options that properly designate property distribution. They can also prepare a will and other estate document that carry out a person's intent.

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