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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

If you've always hated your kids, your spouse and the rest of your family, it's surprisingly easy to make sure the acrimony and hurt feelings keep going long after your funeral ends. However, if you actually like your friends and family, avoid these mistakes in planning your estate.

Errors can hurt heirs
Those looking to help the family and friends they leave behind can end up unintentionally hurting them by creating squabbles or big bills for taxes and fees.
8 ways to leave a mess behind
1. Stay ignorant about the process
2. Be clueless about the role of wills
3. Put your kid's name on the deed
4. Dawdle indefinitely
5. Don't trust trusts
6. Leave messy financial records
7. Give your ex-spouse a parting gift
8. Let others figure out what you want

1. Stay ignorant about the process
As with most things, but especially with estate planning, when you don't know what you're doing, mistakes practically make themselves.

Lawyers are supposed to look out for your interests, but they're not always successful. "They bury their mistakes," says Ron Christner, associate professor of finance at Loyola University. "In other words, you have a will made out when you're 40 and you die when you're 80, and they look at your will and say, "Oh this is all wrong." Well, that's 40 years too late to discover that. But that's when you find out that somebody made a mistake."

Of course, the deceased would have to take some responsibility for not updating the will after age 40 ...

If you don't want to leave a mess for your family, you need to bone up on the subject. Spend at least as much time on it as you would researching a car before buying it, says Denis Clifford, a lawyer and author for Nolo, a publisher of consumer-oriented legal books and software. It's a huge mistake to turn everything over to a lawyer and not get any information about something on which you're going to spend a substantial amount of money, he says.

"Someone should have an idea of what a living trust is before they go ask someone to make one for them. I would say get some information so you're at least an intelligent consumer," says Clifford, author of "Estate Planning Basics," "Make Your Own Living Trust" and "Nolo's Simple Will Book."

-- Posted: Nov. 19, 2007
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