WSJ: Wills prevent protracted legal battles.

It’s not uncommon for emotions to run high when family members make wrongful claims to a loved one’s estate. Quibbling over who really was to get that jewelry case or the heirloom chairs can be solved by giving specific instructions in a simple will—Written instructions and witnesses are important!

But even vague language in the will may prove a headache when it comes to deciphering intentions, such as using the phrase “as they may decide” instead of providing a list of items for each beneficiary, as noted in a Wall Street Journal overview on estate planning and wills.

The article notes that parents should not dismiss the human tendency to quibble over the family possessions, even when the Will clearly spells out the disposition of assets. Often forgotten, or downplayed by parents, is the “emotional attachment” a ring, for example, may have to one sibling—even though it’s actual economic value is minimal.

When it comes to appointing an executor(s), parents should realistically evaluate the potential problems with selecting two siblings who have never gotten along, particularly if the Will does not spell out who-gets-what. If hot disputes are anticipated, then the Will should include a ‘no contest’ clause:

“…it provides that anyone who contests the will forfeits the bequest he or she has been provided…(and) there has to be enough incentive for the potential contestant to accept the bequest under the will, rather than lose everything if the contest is unsuccessful.” Sharon Klein, managing director of family office services / Wilmington Trust in New York.

 If you are looking for advice in making tough decisions for your estate plan, please contact Ford + Bergner LLP to assist you in making those decisions.

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