no intention of benefiting them.
A Southfield woman says her
brother was so worried about his ex-
wife getting her hands on his inheri-
tance that he begged their father not
to include him in his will. The father
complied and left two-thirds of his
estate to his daughter and one-third
to another brother. The daughter then
split her share with the brother who
had asked not to be included.
Estate planning experts say that
can work if the children cooperate,
but it's risky. Many adult siblings just
don't get along. Andrew Mayoras, an
attorney with the Troy firm Barron,
Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras, tells
of a woman who left her condo equal-
ly to her five sons. Unfortunately,
they couldn't agree about what to do
with the condo. It sat empty for years
and eventually went into foreclosure.
Establish A Trust
A much better way to avoid problems
that might arise from multiple mar-
riages or squabbling siblings is to put
the estate into a trust, says Mayoras.
An independent trustee then distrib-
utes the assets to the beneficiaries.
Creditors, including divorced spous-
es, can't touch the money as long as it
stays in the trust. And trust arrange-
ments are much less likely to be con-
tested successfully in probate court.
Trusts are the best way to ensure
that heirs with special needs will not
lose any government benefits they
currently receive. A trust can also be
structured to ensure that heirs use
their inheritance responsibly. This
can be very helpful if the beneficia-
ries are young or if they have emo-
tional or addiction problems.
When survivors cooperate, set-
tling an estate can bring them closer
Carolyn Siegel Lippmann's mother
left her condo to her brother. "When
the will was written, I was engaged
and had a steady teaching position, so
it made sense to leave their condo to
my single brother who never owned
his own home:' she said. "But, by the
time my mom died, I was out of work
and widowed, with a house that had
Lippman's brother agreed to work
out a settlement. Since everything else
in the estate was split fifty-fifty, he
paid her half the value of the condo.
"He also understood that inherit-
ing the condo did not mean all of its
contents:' she said. "We were able to
amicably divvy up the artwork and
furniture and decide what to give away
or donate. Working together brought
us closer and enabled us each to use
our strengths to achieve a common
Tips For Successful
Barris, Sott, Denn
& Driker and Don
Rosenberg of Barron,
& Mayoras have
some advice for ways Robert Kass
to avoid friction if you are making an
estate plan or dealing with an aging
Think carefully about who will be the
estate executor: one child, all the chil-
dren together (which they don't advise
unless they all get along very well), or
an independent third party?
If you own a business, will it go
equally to all your heirs, or to those who
were most involved in the business?
Will those who don't get a piece of the
business be compensated another way?
Don't put any property into joint
ownership just for convenience, because
the inheritance could go to the surviv-
ing joint owner and may not be consid-
ered part of the estate. Joint ownership
can be especially troublesome if the
surviving joint owner becomes inca-
pacitated in any way.
Instead of joint ownership, consider
giving power of attorney to a family
member so they can make decisions for
you if you become incapacitated.
Consider putting your estate into a
trust, which will help your heirs avoid
many pitfalls in settlement.
You may want to discuss your plan
with beneficiaries so that they will not be
surprised. On the other hand, if anyone
is unhappy with your plans, they could
try to pressure you into changing them.
If you are administering an estate, the
best thing you can do is to practice good
Let beneficiaries know what is going
on, but communicate only with them,
not with their spouses or others who are
not directly involved.
On important decisions, try to gain
consensus and formal written approval.
Executors may want to protect them-
selves by getting approval for their deci-
sions from Probate Court.
When there is a lot of valuable per-
sonal property and the deceased has
asked for it to be shared equally among
heirs, get appraisals of the items so that
all the heirs will receive things worth
the same amount.
You might consider getting input
from an attorney or financial adviser
before making decisions, but discuss
the choice of a third party with all the
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