Avoiding inheritance disputes in New Jersey with estate planning

People living in New Jersey may be surprised to learn what their loved ones hold closest to their hearts after a family member passes away. While some may believe a financial inheritance is foremost on their heirs' minds, a Wall Street Journal article reveals that less than 10 percent of people over the age of 50 are eager to inherit money.

Whether it is due to a tight economy, longevity or steep health care costs, most people no longer expect to inherit financial resources. You may be surprised to know that baby boomers and those over the age of 72 most desire the following items upon the death of a loved one:

  • Family histories and stories
  • Personal keepsakes and mementos
  • Family heirlooms

Often, failure to specify who will receive family keepsakes can create rifts between family members. Many estate planning attorneys note that will contests and family disputes are often over items that have little monetary value.

Avoiding family disputes

After the death of a loved one - when family members are mourning - questions often arise regarding final requests and will provisions. Without knowing who is to receive grandmother's recipe collection, Aunt Flo's journals or the painting that hung over dad's chair in the den, family spats can quickly arise.

Unfortunately, resolving inheritance disputes can be quite difficult as the person who could most easily clear up the confusion is no longer around. These issues are made more difficult if:

  • Family members do not trust the administrator of the estate.
  • Estate planning documents were not drafted correctly.
  • Financial and inventory accounting is inaccurate.
  • Trust administration is mismanaged.
  • No one knows what their loved one intended or wanted.

Many mistakes or omissions are not found until it is too late. That is why it is vital to establish your estate plan correctly and thoroughly well before the time comes for its administration. Plan ahead by doing the following:

  • Communicate: As difficult as it may be, communicate your desires to your family members so they may understand the reasons behind your decisions.
  • Ask: You may be surprised by what your family actually wants after you are gone. A nephew may have strong feelings about his favorite aunt's teacup collection and a daughter may want her father's gun collection.
  • Write it down: Write down who will get which personal items after you have determined who wants what. If there are competing interests for a particular item, it is your decision, but you need to write it down.

Consult a lawyer

Whether you need to set up an estate plan, have not recently reviewed your plan or are currently facing family difficulties due to a loved one's plan or lack thereof, consult an experienced New Jersey attorney. A lawyer knowledgeable about estate planning, plan administration and resolving inheritance disputes can help.