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Your estate plan can stop family disputes before they start

No one wants to think about creating their estate plan, but it's essential. We owe it to our families to spell out our final wishes, so they don't endure any problems as they cope with the death of a loved one.

And no one in New York – or across the United States – should take the task lightly. Our wishes need to be written as clearly as possible, and we also should answer any questions our heirs might have. If we don't, a family squabble could occur that could wind up in court, and that's the last thing we want.

Here are some ways you can reduce the possibilities of disharmony happening in the family.

Start by naming the proper executor. You need to be confident that the executor you choose will respond to your family promptly, take care of all paperwork in a timely fashion and perform the duty in the most ethical manner possible. Instead of considering the relationship you have with the person, consider whether they have the skills needed for the job and is responsible and organized. Don't choose a family member unless you are confident of that person's intentions and abilities.

As you create your estate plan, include personal property that could cause a fight between your children or grandchildren. It doesn't have to be your classic car that they might fight over. Anything that holds a special place in your family – even something as little as the plate you used to put cookies on for Santa each Christmas – could spark a family dispute.

Ask your family members what items in your house mean the most to them and account for that in your will. Don't be afraid to have the discussion because you think it could cause a fight. Better to fight now than when you're not around to solve the dispute.

If you think there could be problems down the road, include a clause in your will that tells the executor to sell the item that is causing the discord if they fight.

Lastly, should you leave one child more than another, tell them why you are doing so. Your children will want to know why, and you can't explain it when you're gone.

A New York attorney with experience in estate planning can answer your questions and offer additional advice as you work together to create your estate plan.

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