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How to keep your family from fighting over their inheritance

If you are ready to create your estate plan, one of the points to consider is how your children and grandchildren will react to their inheritance. What you intend to give and what they expect to receive may be two entirely different things.

It would not be unusual for your heirs to squabble over what they believe should be their fair share of an eventual inheritance, even while you are still alive, but here you have an excellent opening for a heart-to-heart conversation.

Engage your heirs while you are still able to do so

Experts find that many adult children are not financially ready for their own retirement. They feel entitled to their parents' money so they can be comfortable later in life. Open discussion about your estate plan is the best way to correct mistaken beliefs and tamp down any anger or resentment that seems to be simmering about inheritance matters. Such conversations should be ongoing since everyone can expect changes in life. You may want to alter the terms of your trust, for example, if one of your children becomes permanently disabled or if one of them becomes addicted to drugs. You should have a talk with your heirs about your financial circumstances, your state of health, what your wishes are and how you want them carried out.

Treat your children equally

With exceptions for special circumstances, such as someone who becomes permanently disabled, you should treat your children equally in order to avoid either anger or hurt feelings caused by what they do or do not inherit. They probably had unequal needs growing up, and one child may have received more of your attention or financial support than another child, but do not let past circumstances affect what you leave to the children now.

Keep the contents private

Do not feel that you need to give the children copies of your estate plan. Doing so could create expectations that, due to possible future changes, would not be realistic. Keeping the specifics of your estate plan private is yet another way to avert possible family feuds caused by inheritance issues.

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