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You could easily lose your Inheritance! These Tips will save you Big $$$
Wills-- A simple matter?
The first thing any lawyer will ask if you are the administrator of an estate is. “Was there a Will?” Without it, he knows the law and knows what to do. The laws vary in each state, and most often it becomes a matter of the estate being divided up into equal proportions among the surviving children. In this article we are talking about the last surviving parent.
One would think that dividing up small estate equally with two brothers would be a simple task.
My Dad fortunately had a Will and the proceeds for the estate were to be divided equally between my brother and me. That sounded simple enough. My Dad realized that his sons were very different and he appointed me Administrator. Everyone knew that the “black sheep” brother was not likely to administer much of anything to anyone except himself. He was alone in the world, shifted around from job to job and thought little of sleeping under a bridge. A free spirit—you get the idea.
We had two items that needed attention, an automobile and a trailer that was worth around $50 thousand dollars. My Dad passed away in Florida and my wife and I drove from Michigan in order to take care of the details. My brother showed up promptly and insisted he wanted the vehicle. (He had never owned one!) Florida law is great in that regard and a trip to the local government office with the death certificate in hand passed it directly to him. He loved it and I didn’t mind seeing him own it.
However, the trailer needed probate and I needed to sell it. He wanted to move in free and clear and let me pay the bills. If he were a forthright person, he would have paid me my share and he could have lived there. Only problem with that was he had no money and the bank would not be excited about a homeless, jobless person wanting a take out a mortgage, even though it would have been a mere hundred a month.
Yep—I had to sell it, alright. He ran back to California to bask in the Sun and waited for the oldest son to take care of all the details and one day send him his half. Nearly a year later, I had a buyer for the trailer. Papers were signed. Lawyers were involved. All I needed was his signature on the sales agreement and mortgage papers. Simple enough! Nope! His childhood buddy was a lawyer (who worked for free) and he talked him into representing him in the matter. Nope he wanted 2/3 of the estate or he would not sign. He emailed “his figures” and stood firm.
The buyers were waiting.
Three weeks went by while the buyers sat patiently.
The offer expired.
Was the sale lost?
I was maintaining the property with my own funds.
We were fortunate to have a buyer in the weak market. Rather than lose the sale, my brother ended up with the 2/3. Would my father have wanted that? Nope, he worked hard in the Will to make it clear that my brother would have no say in the matter. No one realized that the “benefactor” brother’s signature would be required to sell the property. This oversight caused the estate to go lopsided to my brother. Some would say it was blackmail.
Based upon this unfortunate experience, I’d recommend that splitting up a small estate should mention specific amounts in the Will. Had this been done, my brother would have had no reason to holdout for more.
Percentages do not work at all. Everyone has heard that fighting among the children over an estate is an everyday occurrence. Believe it. It is the “percentage concept” that brings it all about. Figures can be disputed. Lawyers can be brought it to raise the dispute to a new threshold.
My advice is to set specific amounts to each benefactor and give the balance, either to the administrator or to charity. The Will could be updated from time to time in the event the actual equity in an estate changed. It is unfortunate that benefactors’ of a Will need to “Sign off” on property. This places them in a position to hold out for more and when buyers are waiting in the wings with money in hand, monies can end up in unwelcome places.
Had my Dad and I jointly owned the property with rights to survivor, this whole affair would never have happened.
One can calculate that the worst side of a benefactor will emerge when settling an estate. Greed will rule.
Imagine that you have several siblings and need to settle an estate. Those who are kind and benevolent will need to fight those who are greedy. If the gentler siblings merely stand back, they will have their fair share taken from them. So they to must take a firm stand in order to get a fair shake. So often, we hear of brothers and sisters who will never speak to each other after an inheritance is settled.
We are back to the “percentage” concept.
It doesn’t work.
If you are in line for an inheritance, do your best to get the percentages out and exact numbers into it. Lawyers probably won’t support the idea. They make money from the dispute!
Print this article and show it to your parents. I am going to assume that you are a Christian principled person and that your brothers and sisters may be less inclined. They will not back you up with this concept. Nope, they will oppose it. “Hey—you are worried about nottun’!” they will claim. Of course this is a sure sign they have sinister plans, the moment that Dad passes away. There is no need to discuss any of this with them as far as I’m concerned.
If you are selected to be the Administrator, that is a sign you are the principled one in the family. I would suggest you get your Dad (or Mom) to tackle this important document with you firmly in charge and then make it clear to others that these details are none of their business.
This is an opinion piece. RJ is not recommending any advice to anyone. RJ is not a qualified estate planner.
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