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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Avoiding family estate fights

The death of a beloved family member may bring a sense of loss and sadness for family members. Unfortunately, without serious planning and consideration during the drafting of the will, this may evolve into rancor and proceedings in Minnesota courts in disputes over inheritances.

Common disputes involve the selection of family members for inheriting specific property in the will and why particular loved ones received that item. The death of a beloved and respected family member also aggravates these disputes which may become more bitter and pronounced during the probate process. Planning should accordingly reflect specific concerns.

First, family members have stronger emotions for items that have sentimental value and not for money. Planning must involve deciding which family member inherits a particularly sentimental heirloom because its owner is not there to make peace and resolve disagreements.

Next, parents must also treat children equally because inheritance is often considered an expression of their parent's love. Although each child may have different needs, they should be treated the same.

For example, disputes may arise when a parent leaves more to a child who is an affluent medical professional than to a sibling who earns much less in an occupation such as a social worker. The more affluent sibling may feel that they are being punished for their perceived success.

Finally, placing the wrong person in charge of the assets may be a major source of friction. The obvious choice, a family member, is often the wrong choice. An independent third party, even one who charges a fee, may keep the family from fighting each other. It is a better situation when family members become mad at that person instead of each other.

An attorney can help draft wills and related documents that further the testator's intent while meeting legal requirements. Legal assistance may avoid confusion and family disagreements after a family member dies.

Source: Cleveland Jewish News, "Family fights during estate panning common, but avoidable," By Becky Raspe, March 13, 2017

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