Avoid Estate Litigation

Avoid Estate Litigation

By: Martin M. Shenkman, CPA, MBA, JD

Maintain consistency in your planning and documents. If you make equal gifts to your heirs while alive, then make equal bequests to them in your will when you die. If your agent under your power of attorney makes equal gifts to those same people when you're disabled, then there really isn't likely to be much issue if. However, if into that equal mix that you deed your home to your eldest daughter, the question is why. There may in fact be nothing untoward in that your daughter lived in the home with you and cared for you full time while your other children didn't. So you made one special provision for her. But how will other heirs know that was the case, rather than your daughter merely manipulating you during a weak moment.

Address inconsistencies in gifts, bequests and planning documents in a manner that makes it clear that those differences are intentional. Sign a gift letter explaining the rationale for the gift. Let your other children know why it is that your daughter is receiving the house in addition to her share of your estate. File a gift tax return. Your other children will know that you bequeathed the house to her when you were of sound mind. This will also reconfirm the gift many months later when the return is due. At yet another date, sign a new will that expressly acknowledges the prior gift and that you intend that your remaining assets should be bequeathed equally. This will show that you spent time thinking about the gift, and that it is consistent throughout different versions of the will. If you include a favorite nephew in those who can receive gifts under your power of attorney, but not in your will, expressly state in the power the maximum gifts that can be made to him. Address differences explicitly and with detail to avoid fights and challenges later. You want to know that after you die, your wishes will be adhered to.

Our Consumer Webcasts and Blogs

Subscribe to our email list to receive information on consumer webcasts and blogs, for practical legal information in simple English, delivered to your inbox. For more professional driven information, please visit Shenkman Law to subscribe.

Ad Space