FORBES Magazine online blog, The Best Revenge – by Ashlea Ebeling, has an excellent article called 10 Ways to Lawsuit Proof Your Estate that covers a lot of the advice that we at Ainer & Fraker, LLP give to our clients.

Please read the entire article by clicking on the following link: 10 Ways to Lawsuit-Proof Your Estate.

Today, we examine Part 2 – Decide who gets which treasure.

Most wills and trusts say to “divide my tangible personal property among my children as they shall agree.” Talk about a recipe for disaster…

…List specific items that you want to go to certain heirs in your will or trust. Better yet, if the items haven’t appreciated in value or your kids plan to keep the pieces in the family, give them away while you’re alive…To make the gift totally transparent, [you can draw] up “bills of sale.”

~ Ashlea Ebeling, 10 Ways to Lawsuit Proof Your Estate

Ainer & Fraker, LLP Analysis

Most clients put the most thought into distributing the “residue” of the Estate between the children – i.e. what is left after initial distributions.

However, as the article indicates, personal property items can often lead to friction between beneficiaries – especially if they have significant emotional value.

We refer to these as “Emotionally Encumbered” items – such as family heirlooms or photo albums.

While they may seem too small to fight over, I can assure you this isn’t the case.

Once upon a time, a lady called our firm out of the Yellow Pages and asked us to help her file a suit against her brother – the Trustee of Mom & Dad’s Trust.

When we asked why she wanted to sue him, she said it was because he had refused to share the family photo album with her.

While we politely declined to represent her, this story shows that children attach great significance to personal property items that remind them of Mom and Dad.

While this is a natural part of the grieving process, it can lead to family friction that can be avoided if Mom and Dad are clear as to “who gets what.”

John Erik Fraker, Esq.

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John Erik Fraker, Esq.

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