The Family Fight - Planning To Avoid It

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The Family Fight In The Media

The Dallas-Fort Worth Star Telegram

Leave A Legacy Of Harmony For Your Children

By Amanda Rogers
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Loving parents know that raising a child requires a lot more than providing food, shelter and clothing for 18 years. Parenting doesn't stop when they go to college, get married or have their own children. It doesn't even stop after you die.

Attorney Les Kotzer tells stories of families torn apart because parents didn't plan ahead. Children who once rode all the way to the Grand Canyon together in the back seat of the car end up estranged and angry because of misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

"Too many parents don't understand that the No. 1 reason you write a will is because you don't want your kids at each other's throats after you pass away," Kotzer says.

Kotzer, co-author of The Family Fight: Planning to Avoid It, says parents with adult children should consider these issues:

• If you become incapacitated, who will look after your affairs?

• Personal effects have a personal effect. Ask your children what they want. Make a list or give them the items before you die. Just be sure to ask all of the children before you start passing things out.

• A child who has taken care of you for months or years but gets no extra acknowledgement when you die can feel taken advantage of. Talk it over beforehand.

• Choose the executor of your will carefully. Some people automatically appoint the oldest child or the oldest son, but that's not always the best option. Some children don't want the job, and they don't have to accept it. Others could feel left out if they are not chosen. Ask them.

• Accounts or property with joint ownership cannot be left in a will. The child whose name is on the account doesn't have to share it with siblings.

• Planning in stepfamilies is different. A surviving spouse does not have to leave anything to his or her stepchildren, even if the items have been in the family for generations. The children from the first marriage could be cut off completely. Plan ahead.

• A child with an addiction doesn't have to be cut out of your will. You can set up a trust.

• Don't assume goodwill among your children. They have their own families, and they're going to look after them.

Kotzer remembers one mom who did it right.

"The mother had two kids, and they didn't get along," he says. "She was dying of cancer. She left an envelope with the executor and asked them to come into the office without their spouses.

"Inside the envelope were pictures of the kids on ponies, holding hands on the first day of school and at one's wedding. She wrote them a letter telling them how much she loved them and how she remembers how much they loved each other.

"Then she wrote, 'Remember, I'll be watching you.'

"She brought them back to where they had come from. They had forgotten they were from the same blood. They hugged, and now they're close."

Kotzer's book is available by calling 1-877-439-3999.

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