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Unclear estate plan leads to dispute between wife and daughter

One of the most important aspects of proper and effective estate planning in New Jersey is to clearly specify which intended beneficiaries are to inherit specific items. When designations are vague or general, disputes can easily arise, especially when the issue is one that has not yet been decided by a court of law in the particular state.

This issue recently arose after a husband and father passed away. He left behind a will in which he had left all of his real property to his children. The remainder of his estate was to be distributed to his wife.

A problem arose because part of the assets in this man's estate was insurance money that was paid on a cause of action. Under the particular state's law it remained unclear as to whether money collected from an insurance claim was to be treated as personal or real property, even when the settlement proceeds stemmed from damage to real property.

As a result, the man's mother and daughter remain in disagreement as to who is entitled to collect the money. While the mother was willing to split the proceeds with her daughter, the man's daughter believes that she is entitled to all of the funds. This disagreement over the settlement proceeds has yet to be decided, and remains in the midst of an estate litigation.

Careful and thoughtful planning can ensure that your final wishes are carried out in the way you intended them. As this story shows, the law surrounding the administration of wills and estates is extremely complex, requiring the assistance of knowledgeable and experienced estate planning attorneys.

Source: The Southeast Texas Record, "Law firm seeks non-jury trial in women's dispute over will," David Yates, Jan. 2, 2013

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