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Tips to help avoid fighting over an estate

You've created a life for yourself, over the years you've purchased property, collected personal possessions and hopefully been able to save some money. But what happens to everything you've worked for once you're gone?

Controversy can spark after a loved one passes away. The emotions that come with losing someone are overwhelming and now they're faced with settling your estate. Depending on how clear and concise your estate has been planned out, there might be cause for concern.

Consider the following tips while putting together or updating an estate plan:

Important note: Every adult (no matter their age) should put together an estate plan. These are meant to be updated through the years. Even if you don't own any property or major assets, you still have a right to control your healthcare desires. The best way to ensure your wishes are honored is to have it legally documented.

Choose your executor carefully

The executor of your estate should be someone you trust to handle your affairs in the manner to which you requested. The executor will oversee your estate after you pass; they will work closely with a lawyer to make sure your estate is properly divided according to your wishes. It is important to choose someone who is in good health and of sound mind, don't give the courts a reason to suspect the executor cannot handle their duties properly.

Be very clear about your wishes

Avoid surprises by making sure everything is accounted for. Was your daughter hoping to get the family piano? Did your sister want the family heirlooms inherited from your parents? Telling someone they can have a certain possession isn't the same thing as having it legally documented. You can't prove a conversation in court. It is important that you take inventory of your assets and declare how you want them disbursed and who exactly they will go to.

Talk to your attorney alone

Its okay to ask trusted friends and family for lawyer recommendations but their involvement should end there. Meet with your lawyer independently to avoid any outside influences.

Keep your estate plan up-to-date

If you created your estate plan 10 years ago, there's an entire decade that is not accounted for. Were any grandkids born that you now want to include? Has a family member set to receive assets from your estate passed away? Or maybe you've simply changed your mind and want to reallocate or reorganize.

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