Mullen and Iannarone, P.C.
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Estate planning can cut down on squabbles among heirs

Many people assume that when a loved one dies in New York, the heirs will be squabbling over big-ticket items like homes and bank accounts. Very possibly they could be wrong, since who gets the small items, such as costume jewelry or the family Bible are in some cases more likely to be fought over.

That is because heirs may be sentimentally attached to small items, such as a piece of mom's costume jewelry or dad's fishing rod because of fond memories associated with these items. New Yorkers can prevent intra-family squabbling by making a written list of who gets what after they die. Merely orally promising to give someone a specific item won't be sufficient when it comes time to settle the estate. This gift memorandum can be made part of a will or trust, depending on how the owner wants to handle it.

Better yet, seniors can give their precious possessions or other personal property to heirs while they are still alive. A good time to do this might be if they are downsizing to smaller living quarters. This allows them to see the beneficiary enjoying the item while they are still living.

Some items, however, such as stock, might better be left to heirs after their death because of potential tax implications. An estate planning attorney may be able to advise on when to transfer stock ownership as well as help clients determine if a will or trust will work best for them. Legal counselmay also help with drawing up the list of personal items to be distributed upon the client's death so as to avoid future disputes.

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