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Preparing for the worst after your death

When a family patriarch or matriarch dies, families may lose the glue that holds them together. Besides just dealing with grief, unresolved feelings towards each other can surface, exploding into a full-fledged feud. This is especially true when there are stepchildren and biological children in the family mix.

An even bigger problem may arise when it comes to distribution of the deceased person's assets. Family members may fight over what they think should rightfully be theirs. Jealousy, greed and possessiveness can appear from nowhere. The family ends up further divided through months or years of probate court litigating over their loved one's belongings.

How can you prevent this from being your family? Brainstorm the worst that could happen with your family members after your death; then make plans for the worst. Planning for the worst can ensure the worst doesn't happen.

Begin by making sure you have the appropriate documents prepared. Visit your attorney and have a will or trust drawn up. Assign powers of attorney. Have a medical directive and name beneficiaries on insurance plans or retirement accounts. If you have minor children, include a guardian in your will. You should also name an executor for your will.

Be as fair as possible. You may not leave the same assets to each family member, but try to keep the value as equivalent as possible. For instance, one adult child may be sentimental about your jewelry collection, while another may be fond of your antique buffet. By leaving your heirs with things you know they care about, it goes a long way towards making them feel your love even after your death.

Discuss your will and plans with your family members ahead of time. This way they already know what to expect. It also gives them an opportunity to voice any concerns or personal choices they may have.

Try not to name any one sibling in a position of control, such as the executor of your will. Unless you are absolutely sure about how the others will react, this could not only put that person in an uncomfortable position, but may cause resentment or the appearance of favoritism.

Source: Bankrate, "How to avoid a family inheritance feud," Sheryl Nance-Nash, accessed Dec. 04, 2015

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