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Estate Planning: Choosing Your Heirs

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Planning for the distribution of assets to your heirs can be an emotional time for you and your family. The choices made are sensitive, and can often result in family disputes.

Above all, remember that your assets are just that – yours. When, where, and to whom you distribute your assets is completely up to you. Making these final decisions isn’t always straightforward. Here are some questions to consider when wrapping up your estate plan.

Tangible Gifts

How will you plan to distribute tangible gifts in your will? These are the physical items that will be dispersed. Sometimes these items hold family history or sentimental value and are prized by many members of your family. Examples include:

  • Jewelry
  • Furniture
  • Art
  • Firearms
  • Collections – coins, antiques, fine china.

Other Estate Forms

Non-tangible gifts can take a variety of forms. These can be more complicated to divide and more complex for family members to manage. Consider the future of these assets and the heir you select. Can they responsibly manage the asset? These non-tangible gifts include:

  • Cash
  • Securities – mutual funds, stock and bond accounts, trusts.
  • Franchise rights
  • Intellectual property

For both types of assets, you may want to consider if any will be given to charity. Make a note of these assets from the start. The Houston estate planning lawyers at Morris Ostrom Law can help smoothly transition any gifts from your estate to a charity of choice.

How to Divide?

This question can be the most difficult to answer. How will you divide your tangible and non-tangible assets to your heirs? Some choose to consider the behavior of family members and reward certain behaviors over others. Another method is to simply divide the assets equally across all family members. Each of these decisions comes with trade-offs that depend on each family’s circumstances.

A third way to divide assets is by financial need. In a bottom-up approach, heirs in most need are given the greatest amount of financial assistance. Each heir is given a different amount calculated by his current net worth. Good intentions often drive this style of asset distribution, but it can result in messy relations between heirs.

Heir Input?

Clients often ask if they should involve their family members in this process. Our answer – know your heirs. If you believe they are mature enough to help, family assistance can be a wonderful gift. However, avoid bringing your heirs into the discussion if it would only cause more tension and dissidence.

In the end, it comes down to this: what do you want? These are the assets that you worked a lifetime to gather. However you decide to distribute them, our Houston estate planning lawyers can help organize your plans.