The distribution of most estates is a straightforward and fairly uneventful process. However, sometimes an estate dispute breaks out between family members when the contents of a loved one’s will are discovered. Understanding what can cause family fights can help you mitigate or avoid future family squabbles when it comes to your and your loved one’s estates. Having an experienced estate planning attorney help you draft your estate plan is the best way to minimize the chances of family disputes, and the Inheritance Recovery Attorneys are here to help. To schedule a free consultation, call or contact our office today.
Suspicion of Elder Abuse or Undue Influence
One of the most common causes of family fights over an estate is due to suspicion that the decedent was the victim of elder abuse or undue influence. This typically occurs when one family member inherits significantly more, or all, of a loved one’s estate. Elder abuse can be physical, emotional, and financial. In some cases of elder abuse, duress or coercion can be used to alter an elderly person’s estate plan.
In cases of undue influence, a family member exerts so much influence over an elderly loved one that the influencer’s wishes for the estate supersede the final wishes of the decedent, and the will is crafted to reflect the desires of the influencer. Having your loved one examined by a doctor and psychologist prior to the drafting of a will can help minimize the chances of these accusations, as can ensuring that one family member does not spend a disproportionate amount of time with your loved one before his or her passing. This method is also helpful to avoid similar claims by family members of a lack of testamentary capacity prior to the signing of a will.
First Beneficiaries Unable to Accept Assets
Another cause of family squabbles occurs when the first beneficiary of part of the estate is unable to accept the assets. This can happen for a number of reasons, but the most common reasons are the prior passing of the first beneficiary or financial troubles. The assets then pass to the second beneficiary named or go into the remainder of the estate. This issue can lead to an estate dispute because it can throw off a prior equal distribution of assets or can lead to disagreements about whether a second beneficiary deserves to inherit his or her share. Structuring your estate plan so that one person does not receive a disproportionate amount of the estate even in a secondary situation is the best way to avoid these types of family fights.
Lack of an Estate Plan
The lack of an estate plan also causes many family fights over an estate. When a person dies without a will, his or her estate is distributed according to the laws of intestacy. While this is meant to ensure equality in the value of the distribution of assets, it can cause serious problems when specific items of value are desired by one or more family members. If two family members want the same memento or valuable item, the lack of direction from an estate plan can lead to fights. A similar issue can arise if family members disagree on what to do with a larger item in the estate, such as a family home. The uncertainty stemming from the lack of an estate plan can cause just as many problems as when family members disagree over the contents of a will.
Personal Problems of Family Members
One final cause of family fights over estates occurs when one or more family members is dealing with personal problems that others may or may not know about. Financial difficulties such as the loss of a job, student loans, or credit card debt could make a family member rely on a large inheritance and be disappointed when it does not come through. Substance abuse issues or mental illness can also contribute to family fights over an estate. The best way to avoid these fights over an estate is open and honest communication about expectations of inheritance before and after the passing of a loved one.
Contact An Estate Planning Attorney Today
If you believe that a family fight might erupt over your loved one’s estate or for more information on how to draft an estate plan with a minimized chance of a family fight, call the office or contact us today at the Inheritance Recovery Attorneys to learn more about your legal options with one of our experienced estate planning lawyers.