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Strive to be as specific as possible during estate planning

Many District of Columbia residents have a general outline in their minds of how they would like their estates distributed upon death. However, being general during estate planning can result in complications for family members after death. One should strive to be as specific as possible during estate planning in order to eliminate -- or at least reduce -- any ambiguity regarding his or her wishes.

For instance, if an individual states that the children are to receive all of the jewelry but does not specify which pieces go to which child, arguments are bound to erupt. If the children are unable to resolve the issue among themselves, they could end up in a costly and time-consuming court battle over a particular item. A better solution may be to talk with each child to determine which pieces each would like. If there is a disagreement over a specific item, the individual can make the choice for them.

If a District of Columbia resident has particular wishes regarding what should happen to his or her body after death, those desires can be put into the will. Again, however, specificity is key. For example, simply expressing the wish to be cremated and scattered across a beach may not be specific enough for family members.

If an individual goes into estate planning with the expectation that family members will argue, documents can be drafted to allow the individual to retain control over the process even after death. However, unless everyone is aware that such documentation exists and where it is located, even the most meticulous planning could go to waste. An estate plan is designed to provide the individual and family with the peace of mind, and leaving specific instructions and bequests may provide that.

Source: CNBC, "Leave your money to your heirs -- not Uncle Sam", Shelly Schwartz, April 15, 2015

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