The sad tales of
families squabbling over an inheritance (or disinheritance) often make
public spectacles of the most intensively private of lives.  Such is the case with author John Steinbeck, as his
family litigates over a small piece of property he used to call his
“little fishing place.”  It’s just a little house at the end of a point jutting
into a cove of Noyac Bay in Sag Harbor, New York.  This is where Steinbeck wrote some of his most cherished works.

While alive, he
worked to keep the place private.  He
even hand-stenciled a sign warning, “Trespassers Will Be Eaten.”  Unfortunately, his heirs have taken the little house and
made a public spectacle of it.  You can
read the sad story online at the New
York Times

Of course, the
Steinbeck heirs are not unique.   Intra-family feuds are rather common these
days following the death of a family member.  That fact was confirmed in a survey conducted
by the AARP/Scudder Investment Program of Americans age 50 and over.   According to the survey, 20 percent of the
respondents cited problems among surviving family members due to their inheritance,
or lack thereof.   More often than not,
these feuds are over tangible personal property (things like artwork and family photos) and family business interests.

So, how do you
protect your legacy and preserve family harmony?  Unfortunately, the truth is that even the best
estate planning cannot prevent every instance of unreasonable behavior among
heirs.  But there are things you can do
now, with proper legal planning and good communication, to avoid problems later

Read more about Common Estate
and Family
in the February issue of our monthly estate planning e-newsletter.

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