Losing a family member can be one of the most challenging situations a family can go through, especially if it is an immediate family member. Disagreements over the estate often arise when family members are divided and at odds with each other. Estate disputes can make a challenging situation even worse. There are several reasons why family members fight over estate property; they may feel slighted, or a family member may attempt to control the property without proper authority. The list goes on. This article will discuss many of the main reasons family members disagree over inheritance property and steps you can take to prevent this from happening.
Common causes of inheritance disputes in families
Inheritance disputes don’t arise out of thin air. They have usually built up over the years and may be deeply rooted in family history. Inheritance disputes can divide a family and cause family members to stop talking to each other for years. Most disputes revolve around who will take over the estate distribution and act as an administrator and disagreements about how the estate should be divided. Here are some common causes:
A. Lack of a Will: A will can direct the court to appoint an executor of your choosing and direct the distribution of your assets. Executing a will is the best way to guarantee that your assets will be passed on to the person or people you choose. A will may be challenged, but they must have a good reason to fight it in court, or they will not be successful.
B. Lack of Clarity in the Will: Another cause of inheritance challenges is ambiguity in a will. The terms and conditions of a will should be clear and not open to interpretation, or it may cause family members to argue. You also open your estate to disputes if your will isn’t ironclad. All it takes is one simple mistake to have your will invalidated in court after your death, and nothing can be done at that point.
C. Unequal Property Distribution Among Family: No matter your reasoning, unequal property distribution often causes family issues. They may perceive this as unfair if one sibling or family member receives more of your estate than they did.
D. Old Sibling Issues: Sibling rivalry runs deep in many families, and it can be difficult even for adults to put the past behind them. Your death may bring them back to their childhood and resurface old grievances they had with each other.
How You Can Prevent Family Disputes
Realizing that one of your heirs could potentially challenge your estate plan is a hard pill to swallow, but it’s important to be prepared. Here are a few proactive steps you can take to minimize potential disagreements:
1. Have a Clear Estate Plan: The best way to protect your estate from challenges is to have a well-structured estate plan that leaves no room for ambiguity. A well-defined will or trust can reduce disagreements and keep family harmony. An experienced attorney can walk you through the process and draft a plan tailored to your specific needs.
2. Designate an Executor or Trustee: Choosing an impartial executor or trustee can also alleviate any potential issues when you die. This individual will carry out your last wishes without playing favoritism between your heirs and will guarantee that your assets are properly distributed.
3. Fair Distribution: While the distribution of assets doesn’t have to be equal, it should be fair in order to prevent family disputes. Equitable distribution should take into account each heir’s individual situation. Some heirs may need more financial help, while others have found success and only want sentimental items. You may want to document the reasoning behind your distribution choices so they will have an explanation.
4. Open Communication with Beneficiaries: While it cannot completely guarantee no inheritance disputes, clearly communicating your wishes with them may lessen the impact. This will also help them manage their expectations for when the time comes.
How an Attorney Can Help
An experienced estate planning attorney can speak with you to learn more about your situation and draft an estate plan that adequately expresses your last wishes. Beneficiaries often dispute DIY estate plans. An attorney will make sure that you have your legal documents in order.
Contact an Attorney
Progeny Law Firm assists clients with estate planning in Baton Rouge, LA. Call (225) 465-1090 or contact us online for a free consultation.
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