Christene (Chris) Krupa Downs
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How Should I Divide My Estate Amongst My Heirs?

Christene Krupa DownsReviewsout of 7 reviews
Christene “Chris” Krupa Downs
Rated by Super Lawyers

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estate planning attorney
Estate planning attorney

As you and your estate planning attorney collaborate on your estate plan, your input on how to allocate your assets to your heirs and who to name as beneficiaries in your last will and testament is crucial. It’s not uncommon for family members to have differing opinions on the disposition of assets, and in some cases, this can escalate to legal disputes.

If you wish to avoid that, the idea of “who gets what” could be weighing on your mind. Many people have mixed emotions about allocating assets, as it may feel like playing favorites or perhaps just a little too cold and calculating.

However, a well-considered, legally sound will can help prevent legal challenges. When you anticipate possible problems, such as disputes over assets, disagreements on guardianship, or confusion about your wishes, that could happen in your family after you are gone, you can take practical steps to avoid them.

Here are some common methods many people use when deciding how to divide their estate amongst their heirs.

Prioritize the Most Valuable and Important Items

Start by creating a list of your most valuable possessions and important items, including heirlooms, real estate, financial assets, and other possessions to which someone may have a strong attachment. You may wish to have a conversation with your family members about which items they hold dear or have special memories attached to. If more than one person desires a specific item in their inheritance, you may be able to work out compromises ahead of time.

Your lawyer may incorporate some of these decisions into your will or write an attachment to the will, allocating specific items to individuals or charities. It’s usually a good idea to have everything related to your estate plan legally reviewed and witnessed to prevent challenges later.

If you have items of value that no heir particularly wants, and you believe that selling the item(s) and adding the proceeds to your estate may benefit your heirs more, then you can direct that those items be sold after you pass. For example, you may have valuable artwork that no one likes, but you know you have children who plan to attend college. So, you could sell the artwork and establish an educational trust with the proceeds.

When writing your will, it’s a good idea to appraise rare or valuable items so you understand their monetary value. This can help you “make things even” or get a better grasp of what the estate may be worth.

Consider a Lifetime Gift Instead

You don’t have to wait until after you pass to give your children and other heirs part of their inheritance. Gifting assets or money while you are alive can make their lives easier or enable you to see your heir enjoy a certain item (like hanging a piece of artwork on the wall or living in a family home)

Keep these things in mind when making lifetime gifts to your family:

  • Ensure that everyone knows you gifted the item – you don’t want your kind gesture to be turned into an accusation of theft after you pass.
  • Consider a “deed gift,” which allows you to remain in possession of the property while you’re alive; the deed passes to the person you designate after you die.
  • Your heirs may face tax complications with items that appreciate considerably after you pass.

Get Help From an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

As you navigate the complexities of estate planning, it’s natural to have personal questions about how to allocate your assets. Seeking a consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer can empower you with the knowledge and guidance you need to make informed decisions. They can provide insights on how to ensure fairness if you have multiple children or want to protect specific assets.

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