Mark Accettura is an elder law attorney at Accettura & Hurwitz, Farmington Hills, Michigan, and author of "Blood & Money: Why Families Fight Over Inheritance and What to Do About It" (Collinwood Press, 2012).


Alfred from New Jersey posted over 2 years ago:

Excellent outline for minimizing conflict.This topic is generally avoided because one does not want to think of the inevitable.Family peace can be maintained ,why leave a legacy of a fractured family.

Errol from Utah posted over 2 years ago:

It is important to use a prenuptial for a second marriage. Be certain to define what assets existed at the end of the divorce and clearly state how new assets that accumulate during the second marriage are to be owned between yourself and the new spouse. Then the new trust documents for yourself and the new spouse pretty much write themselves as far as what goes to whose beneficiaries.
As far as IRA's and 401k's go, I set up the beneficiaries consistent with when the assets began to accumulate, i.e., new spouse gets her share for anything accumulated after the second marriage, but the trust for my natural children get what was accumulated before the second marriage.
The vacation home issue is one that I have not been able to resolve yet. It is a significant portion of my assets for my natural children, but none of them want the responsibility to maintain it. At the moment a bank trust division has it listed as to be managed for a fee with the value of the home being equally owned by the natural children. This is a potential source of conflict as some of the children will want to use it, others might want it sold for the money!?

Stephen from New Hampshire posted over 2 years ago:

The author forgets the needs of couples without sufficient assets to comfortably carry the surviving spouse through his of her remaining lifetime. Given that the survivor will lose at least one SSI (income) but will be left with the same rent, mortgage, real estate taxes, personal health costs etc. the splitting off of assets to children and starving the surviving spouse regardless of the number of prior marriages, is unreal - in my opinion.

Michael from Maryland posted over 2 years ago:

I think it is better to tell your children what is in your will so they will know what to expect upon your death. This will avoid conflict among the children as they can discuss what they might consider unfair in the will. I also think it is a good to ask each child if there is any of your personal items they would like so as there distribution can discussed in an open fashion before being stated in the will.

James from Maryland posted over 2 years ago:

There is one issue not addressed here. If a family trust is anticipated to be long-standing then there is the burden of IRS reporting requirements upon the trustees. Especially if the fiduciary trustees are all family members. If not filed on a timely basis there will be consequences with the IRS and the complicated nature of taxable trust reporting is quite onerous.

Steven from Colorado posted over 2 years ago:

The article for me would have been more helpful defining the acronyms listed in the second paragraph and describing how they are appropriate given one's specific set of circumstances. There is good information here but it reads more like a psychological template for being fair to all of the family. People ought to be able to figure that out for themselves whereas selecting the best strategy based on your specific financial position or assets is much more difficult for the majority of people.

Robert from Tennessee posted over 2 years ago:

I agree that less relationship oriented opinion in exchange for more strategic or tax related guidance would have been a good thing

Barbara from Florida posted over 2 years ago:

How can I be certain I have selected the best Firm to act as Trustee for my childrens Trust?I have heard of too many people who have had their Trusts eroded by enormous fees charged by banks and also large firms like Merrill Lynch?

Alan from California posted over 2 years ago:

Nice article. I have a family trust, but have never made a list of specific objects and directed who should get them. I'm gonna do that.

Alan from California posted over 2 years ago:

Nice article. I have a family trust, but have never made a list of specific objects and directed who should get them. I'm gonna do that.

Jim from Maryland posted over 2 years ago:

Excellent. I plan to discuss with my Estate Attorney.

I do not believe personal property was covered well enough. If you gift items of $100 to son #1 and items $500 to son #2, to keep things even, you need to say that the difference will be covered with other assets such as cash.

Lujean from Minnesota posted over 2 years ago:

I am also more interested in tax related guidance.

Harold from Colorado posted over 2 years ago:

Having practiced probate and estate law for over 30 years before retirement I agree with most of your suggestions. However, the idea of appointing co-fiduciaries or a committee as fiduciaries is an invitation to disaster. If the sibilings can't get along when one is appointed having co-fiduciaries, particularly and even number, will only create insurmountable problems.

Jean from posted over 2 years ago:

Barbara - here's a link to an AAII article on selecting a trustee for an estate plan; it includes a checklist:

--Jean from AAII

Caryl from California posted over 2 years ago:

Since the author states up front that this is NOT an article about estate planning strategies, why criticize him for that? I have read many, many articles dealing with the legal/financial issues. This is the first I've seen that really delves into the human issues behind the merely pragmatic. And even though I've given thought to the emotional and psychological aspects of estate planning, I found several additional,and very helpful, points to consider. Excellent article!

James from Tennessee posted about 1 year ago:

Regarding the decisions about apporting assets among adult children (beneficiaries), there are several consideratikons:
relative wealth of each beneficiary; age of each beneficiary, as a guide to life expectancy; other sources of income, if any, available to each beneficiary such as working spouse or likely inheritance and amount from spouse's parents;support and help rendered during lifetime, especially later years; # of young children and their ages for each beneficiary; relative need among beneficiaries to maintain a reasonable standard of living;and so on.
I do not think the equal share concept is valid, even if the goal is to maintain family harmony; since often the beneficiaries are adult children they should be able to restrain their greed and envy,and respect the decisions of the deceased trust owner(s,proably their parents and/or grandparents.

Ira from Arizona posted about 1 year ago:

I am wondering how complicated it would be if I left my investment holdings to my four childred. Would it be possible or advisable to put them with an Investment Officer that is associated with the same bank where my Trust is located. Then they would have an income for the rest of their lives, instead of taking the cash when my estate is setttled.

Evans from Georgia posted about 1 year ago:

1. If you must appoint a bank as trustee then give the heirs an easy way to fire & replace the trustee - had to do it twice! Otherwise they'll fee the estate to death.
2. Both my wife's and my adult children have copies of our documents, wills. POA's, Living Trusts, etc. That way they can complain while we're alive. They don't, however, have listings of the value of the estates.
3. Second marriage with signifcant age disparity poses difficulty planning problems that I haven't seen addressed anywhere at all well.
4. My parents explained to me and my siblings at young ages that what was theirs was theirs and we ought not expect to inherit anything. That understanding early-on provided significent incentive to us to do well.

Roger from Maryland posted about 1 year ago:

I wish I had this article available when my father passed away a couple of years ago. ALl went well until the last week of my father's life, when relatives took advantage of my father's ailments and my working a continent away to change all that had been planned for years. Presenting this article to all those who participated in the unraveling might have defused a lot of the still-ongoing strife we are all having to tolerate and resolve.

Irene Grbich from Florida posted about 1 year ago:

I would be interested in getting tips to leave an estate to siblings, -- one of whom is very close to me, and two others.

I am a widow with no children.

David Westrate from Wisconsin posted about 1 year ago:

After going through this when my dad died recently. When he was alive he played favorites, but he divided his estate equally between us and we all appreciated that. I believe that equal is better, rather than perpetuating the mistakes of the past.

Ronald Kettler from Missouri posted 7 months ago:

Having recently experienced the process of finalizing a trust, here are some of the ideas I would share. First, interview at least 3 attorneys before deciding. Better yet, interview those who have been highly recommended to you. Secondly, is this person someone with whom you can work? Are they generalists or do they specialize in estate planning? Thirdly, can they communicate verbally and in written form. Some of the attorneys were excellent writers, but they were not able to communicate with a lay person. Fourth, have important questions for them to answer. Fifth, what is the process for you to review the draft document? If they seem unwilling to provide you with time to make changes as you see fit, find someone who will. Sixth, take full advantage of your opportunities to read and suggest changes to your attorney. If your attorney has worked with estate planning before, he or she may see some legal or other unintended or undesirable outcomes related to your trust. Seventh, have your trust "goals" in mind. Share them with your attorney. While the legalize can be an obstacle for a lay person, clearly the more homework one does, the better the outcome.

Donald Griffith from California posted 6 months ago:

With the changes in the Federal regulations it seems wasteful to not amend your A/B trust. It now allows 5.25 M tax-free inheritance, and that iis "portable". I won't try and explain but folks check with your trust attorney. The winds are changing and you will need to change also.

Harold Ewy from Missouri posted 6 months ago:

I and four siblings had Dad's personal property informally appraised. We then bid on those items, taking the money from the cash in the estate. It worked beautifully.

Vern Dransfeldt from California posted 6 months ago:

The sixth point suggests naming the will or trust as beneficiary of life insurance policies and annuities. Because a beneficiary statement can have the same distributive effect as a will or life insurance statement, I see no gain there. The difficulty, especially with a will, is the probate delays that likely will delay receipt of the funds that may be needed immediately by the beneficiaries. Also, it would be useful to point out that beneficiary statements for retirement plans should definitely not name a will or trust as beneficiary, to insure maximum flexibility in receipt of retirement plan benefits for tax purposes that are not possible in a trust or will.

George Sandvig from California posted about 1 month ago:

I would add to the above good ideas, that
an inheritance should come with an education as to the responsibility of the recipient. Kids should be taught how to invest and how to spend wisely.

James Womack from Tennessee posted about 1 month ago:

My wife and I have a revocable living trust, drawn up by an estate attorney, with plenty of input by us.
We agree with the message posted earlier by "JAMES of Tennessee" that there are many good
reasons to divide assets unevenly among beneficiaries. For example a grown adult might inherit your full traditional IRA, but he will also owe Federal and state taxes on the RMD each year, and will receive the RMD, presumable, over many year, and thus will be detrimentally affected by inflation; though he will be tax advantaged by the deferral of current taxes on the assets, except for the RMD. James G. of Tn.

James Womack from Tennessee posted about 1 month ago:

Sorry, for this second posting.
My wife and I appointed three family members as successor trustees-2 grown children and a younger sister 65 years of age)of my hasband's. In addition to the carefully detailed Trust document, we prepared a Message of Instructions for all three: identifying one of them as the financial gatekeeper (accounting for all funds and there whereabouts and distribution) in all matters, but with one additional and very large specific task, such as investment accounts; the second and third also were assigned very large and specific tasks, in addition to the general successor assignments.
We, then, agreed that the sister would have the power to mediate or arbitrate any conflict between the two siblings, including making a decision for one argument over another, and, if needed, to resolve the issue her she saw fit, but not in direct conflict with the Trust itself.

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