Estate Planning Traps to Avoid

It has lately come to my attention on the estate files that I handle about the matter of cash being kept in the home of the deceased that has gone missing. The scenario often goes like this: Mom or Dad had a sizable amount of cash in the home, some of it was part of a coin collection, and now it is missing, I think that someone in the family helped themselves to the money before they passed and now what can we do. The families involved in these situations often have terrible fights over the lost cash and it leads to delays, bitter feelings, and recriminations. How can this be avoided?

Well, if the deceased was secretive about their affairs, very little. Think of this situation as if it were an insurance claim. Someone breaks into your home and steals your collection of antique teacups. When you make a claim to the insurance company, you better have an accurate inventory of those teacups; otherwise it is going to be very hard to prove what value they were. Similarly with cash or coin collections, if you want to prove to the insurance company what you had, you had better have an accurate inventory of that cash. I know that some people like to have some cash in their home, but if you do, you do so at your own risk. With coin collections it is probably best to have them stored in a safety deposit box. However if you insist on having it at home, them prepare a detailed inventory with pictures of the collection. Then if it goes mysteriously missing after you have gone, your executor can easily piece together what you had. Of course it is a different issue as to what the executor does with the information if something has gone missing, but at least you are not guessing at whether anything is missing.

Bottom line storing more than $1000 cash in a home is never a good idea. Storing valuable collections that are easily taken by burglars or family members is probably not a good idea either, but having a proper inventory of what you have can’t hurt in helping your executor deal with the matter after you have gone.

It does seem that it is a fundamental fact of life that family members start to argue where their parents pass away. When your parent dies, there is a lot of stress and it seems to bring out the best and the worst in us. That is where a good lawyer can help you deal with this stress and hopefully help you and your family come to some sort of resolution. Estate litigation is never a good thing, except for the lawyers.

In closing, for 2016, we have had quite a year in this world of ours. The USA election proved to be quite a spectacle and one that defied our notions of what is right and logical in our world. It is hard to say what 2017 will look like and we as citizens of this world are simply along for the ride. All we can do is do the best we can to make our communities better and live lives that are an example to others. Happy Holidays and Happy 2017!

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