Should estate planning include giving gifts during your life?

Estate planning essentially involves determining how to pass your estate on to your children when you die. However, who says you have to wait until then to give them the assets you have set aside for them? Should you consider doing this while you are still alive?

Obviously, this does not work for everything. You probably cannot give loved ones the family home if you're still living in it. Further, your life insurance policy does not pay out to them until you pass away.

However, for smaller items, you can start the distribution process at any time. It can even help to eliminate disputes after the fact. Remember, estate disputes can seriously damage your children's relationships with one another. Anything you can do to prevent that is helpful.

For instance, perhaps you have an antique wooden boat. You have two children. One of them expects to sell the boat, which is very valuable, and split the money with their sibling. The other child has memories of riding in that boat with you as a kid, and they expect it to stay in the family.

Leaving it to both of them in the will can cause a long dispute that leaves one person feeling angry and betrayed. Selling the boat and giving them the money or simply passing the boat on to the child who wants it before you die gives you a chance to talk to them and explain your decision. They won't fight over it or both claim it later.

As you do your estate planning, make sure you consider all of your options and how they will impact your family in the future.

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