Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wording of Will May Cause Problems between Siblings

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wording of Will May Cause Problems between Siblings

Article excerpt

Q: My mother's will states that after expenses are paid, her remaining assets should be divided evenly among her four remaining children.

All of her certificates of deposit, bank accounts and her house are in her name along with either my sister's or mine. Is this the best way to list her assets? Will anything have to go through probate after her death? Should one of us have a power of attorney? Should anything be handled differently?

A: This is not the sort of thing you should try to handle by writing to a newspaper columnist. No lawyer can advise you about your specific situation without seeing the documents involved and talking with you at length to determine the facts.

Without having the papers in front of me, I couldn't know for sure how ownership of the assets had been arranged or what would happen after your mother's death.

You need to talk with a lawyer about all these things. Here's an example of why that is necessary in regard to having various assets in your mother's and either your or your sister's name:

If you and your mother own an asset jointly with right of survivorship, then after your mother's death, you would become sole owner of the asset and it would not be part of her probate estate. However, your question about whether this is the "best way" to have your mother's assets listed, the lawyer would have to respond by asking, "Best for whom?"

If you became sole owner of an asset that your mother intended to be divided equally among you and your three siblings, then the joint ownership wouldn't be "best" from your siblings' viewpoint. Their interests might be better protected by having the asset owned in a way that would make it "payable on death" or "transferred on death." The tax consequences may also be different, depending on how ownership is transferred.

I strongly urge you to sit down with a lawyer who handles estate matters and talk about your situation. …

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