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Giving money to charity can lead to estate disputes

Thinking of doing some good with your money and leaving it to charity when you pass away? Hoping to leave behind an estate plan that makes it easy for your heirs to get things sorted out quickly? Unfortunately, you may not be able to do both.

The problem is that if the amount you leave is significant, there is a chance that your heirs will not appreciate seeing "their" money go somewhere else. They could end up contesting the will and estate plan. This can drag the whole process out, whether they win or lose the case, and it ties everything up in court.

This may be especially true if the amounts you give to your heirs are not equal. For instance, imagine that you have four children. Three of them all get $500,000 in your estate plan. The final heir, due to concerns about their spending habits, gets just $100,000. Another $400,000 goes to charity.

That heir is probably going to think that the $400,000 you gave to charity should have gone to them. Even if the other heirs don't care and feel happy with your decisions, that one discontent person can tie up the whole process. This can drag things out and can even lead to disputes between your heirs. That's the last thing you wanted when you tried to do something good with your money.

If you are planning to leave unequal bequests or to give money to charity, it is possible. You just need to make sure you consider all of your options and how you can avoid a dispute.

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