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Who gets what: the most difficult part of estate planning

Most District of Columbia residents create an estate plan to minimize tax liability and provide for their loved ones. Understanding that these are the goals of estate planning does not always prepare an individual for making certain decisions. Deciding how much to give to each child, for example, may not be as easy as giving each of them an equal share.

In most families, each of the children has his or her strengths and weaknesses. One child may be adept at financial matters and not need financial assistance. However, another could have trouble even keeping track of a checking account and may need help making ends meet.

Giving each of these children the same amount in gifts and bequests probably does not make much sense. The problem, however, is that feelings could be hurt if one child is given more money than another. The best solution may be to sit everyone down and discuss who will receive what and why. Even if everyone is not happy with the way things will go, at least they will understand the reasoning behind it and will not be surprised when the time comes. The discussion could also prevent confrontations among heirs and beneficiaries after the death of their benefactor.

Once the decisions are made and everyone is aware of what will happen, estate planning documents can be drafted and executed. The types of documents needed in order to meet an individual's goals will vary. Some will just need a will to reflect that person's wishes, but others may need trusts and other documents. Either way, the documents need to be drafted in accordance with all of the applicable federal and state laws here in the District of Columbia and across the United States.

Source: investors.com, "Gifts to your heirs: Who gets how much?", Paul Katzeff, May 22, 2015

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