Inheritance Matters

Thursday, Jan. 21st 2016 12:01 AM

Do you see your children run around the house and marvel at how close they are? Sure, they argue and occasionally fight, but when it really counts, they stick together and stand up for each other, just like you taught them to do. Right? Having a close family is a beautiful thing. I’ll bet you can’t even imagine them bickering over your estate after your death. Most probably can’t. But we’ve all seen or heard of families torn apart by issues related to inheritance.

Even though you (and your spouse, if you have one) want to assume the best of your children, I suggest respecting the possibility that things could go awry, and if you don’t want fighting to ensue after you’re dead, make plans now.

I recently enjoyed a long road trip with Mel, a close family friend. He is well into his 60s, and we regularly enjoy our ongoing disagreements over this and that. During our drive, Mel told me about an issue he is having with his sister, who is (as he puts it) irresponsible. She was named the executor of their mother’s estate, which includes the house in which she now lives and another property. The will gives her brother ownership of the property, but she is wielding her authority and refusing to execute the will, even though it’s been more than a year since Mom’s passing. Meanwhile, Sis cannot afford to pay the taxes on the properties, which may soon be seized by the state to cover the delinquency. Mel is now taking Sis to court to force the execution of the will and save the properties from seizure.

Historically, Mel and his sister did not get along. However, death, especially in the absence of a will (which is not the case in this scenario) can put undue hardship on even the closest of siblings. Some families are able to civilly sort out inheritance issues without even adhering to a will. But a disgruntled sibling with a chip on his/her shoulder or a greedy streak can turn a difficult time into a family feud. And that is why it is important to eliminate most of the potential for bickering between your children by creating a clear, detailed will.

I am not a legal professional, and I recommend consulting an attorney for the ins and outs of estate planning. Just don’t leave your kids to sort out these hot-button property and inheritance issues on their own or in court.

How you divide or assign your property is up to you. You don’t have to do it fairly or even “responsibly.” You could leave everything to the oldest and let him/her make all of the decisions as to whom or where things should go. You can leave it all to a charity, and tell your children to live off the legacy you gave them while you were alive. Or you can divide assets evenly. But however you decide to handle it … just handle it. Doing so is a Powerful way to protect and care for your family, even after you’re gone.

Keep Rising,

Frank Love

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