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Change your perspective when considering heirs

For many in Pennsylvania, a primary focus within the estate planning process is to create a plan to distribute wealth equally among surviving children. This is an admirable goal, and one that can go a long way toward avoiding bitterness and resentment among siblings. That said, many parents take a very one-sided approach when it comes to estate planning and only think about what they would like to give, as opposed to what their heirs might like to receive.

For example, a family may own a vacation home on a lake. The summer house might hold a great many memories and may have been passed down through the family for generations. It is easy to assume that the property should be handed down to one's children with everyone receiving an equal share, but in reality, this arrangement might not be what a group of siblings wants.

If one or more adult children have no interest in the property, the family as a whole may be better served by making other arrangements. Forcing each sibling to accept a partial share in the house could lead to a scenario in which one child gets no enjoyment from the property but is still responsible for a portion of the maintenance and property taxes. This can lead to a high level of contention among siblings, which is not the intent that the parents held.

When preparing an estate plan, it is important to take the wants and needs of loved ones into consideration. If one or more children do not want to take ownership of a piece of property, they can receive a greater share of other assets that will make up for the value of the asset they are declining. Taking this approach is an excellent way to ensure the greatest possible degree of parity among surviving children. Determining the appropriate modifications can take a bit of time and effort, but it is a consideration that many Pennsylvania heirs will deeply appreciate.

Source:, "How to take the stress out of estate planning", Brian Vnak, Sept. 2, 2015

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