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Financial Literacy - Planning for your heirs
8 ways to leave a mess for your heirs
If you harbor negative feelings toward your family, follow these steps to foster even more bad blood after you're gone.
Planning for your heirs

8 ways to leave a mess behind for your heirs

"In some states and with some types of assets, divorce doesn't necessarily revoke the prior spouse as being a beneficiary. For instance, with any federal pension, you have to change the beneficiary. Specifically, you can't just get divorced and assume that your spouse is no longer your beneficiary. And the same thing is true if you have a child: You should update your will or whatever you have," says Clifford.  

8. Let others figure out what you want
Talking to your family about your intentions seems obvious. After all, they will one day be combing through all of your most closely guarded secrets.

"When someone passes away, you as a survivor have to put together these pieces of the puzzle and many times these pieces don't fit. And you have the hardest time when, if there had been communication, all of this could have been avoided," says Berkley.

"I had one situation that was so bad. The person died without leaving a will or any instructions, and she left three daughters. And there was such fighting between them over who would get what that it went to the court. The court decided that no one was going to get anything and appointed a public guardian to come in and take the entire inventory and sell everything and then write three checks to the daughters.

"Had the mom left some kind of instructions or indication, all of that would have been prevented. But it happens a lot," he says.

Besides easing the transition after death, leaving specific instructions about your medical care while alive also comes in handy -- specifically, in the form of an advance medical directive.

"We definitely recommend a health care power of attorney if you are temporarily disabled, a financial power of attorney for someone to pay the electric bill and the gardener and the mortgage if you are disabled. There's also a very important document known as a living will which directs a physician. And that really came into prominence in the Terri Schiavo case. Had she had such a document, her family and her husband would not have been at odds fighting for what her wishes were," says Berkley.

-- Posted: Nov. 19, 2007
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