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Estate planning and sibling rivalry

One primary risk that California parents want to avoid while planning their estates is the chance of their children battling over their estates. It is not uncommon for siblings to fight for years over an inheritance in court.

In the case of Jimi Hendrix, for example, his heirs have been fighting over his $80 million estate ever since Hendrix' father and original heir, Al Hendrix, died in 2002. The heirs only recently arrived at a tentative settlement in the estate after more than a decade of legal battles.

Even with small estates, though, siblings can end up fighting. In order to prevent such an event, it often takes more than just writing up a will. It may be wise to create detailed instructions about how family valuables, heirloom jewelry and other items should be split up among children. A professional fiduciary may also be appointed to act as executor of your estate to help with its dispensation.

Another thing California parents should consider doing is communicating with their children about their estate planning wishes before they die. This can make siblings aware of your intentions ahead of time so they will be more likely to accept the terms of your estate dispensation plan without contesting it later.

It is not unheard of siblings to fight over seemingly insignificant items like a lucky golf club, an otherwise worthless piece of art or jewelry, or even a cufflink. It does not matter how valuable the item is; if it may have sentimental value to heirs, estate planners are advised to itemize it and indicate who is going to receive it after a parent dies.

California residents can also benefit from speaking with an experienced estate planning attorney who can guide them on appropriate strategies to keep the peace in their families once they are gone.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Sibling Rivalry Complicates Estate Planning," Veronica Dagher, Sep. 09, 2015

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