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Sibling squabbles often lead to probate litigation

Families in Minnesota know how difficult the death of a parent can be. In addition to the huge emotional toll, the death of both parents leaves brothers and sisters having to sort out finances and figure out how to dispose of property. While everyone hopes that this process can move along without any conflict, sometimes old or even more recent sibling rivalries can have an effect on the probate process, sometimes resulting in probate litigation that only adds to the emotional stress of the death in the family.

Oftentimes, a probate issue between siblings emerges when one sibling assumes the role of taking care of a family's ill or aging parent. Many times the other siblings may be unwilling or unable to provide this service for a variety of reasons, such as geographic distance.

This can lead to tension because the parents may wish to provide something extra for the sibling who took care of them. While this may be innocent enough, it can create hard feelings and, in the worst case, lead to allegations that the sibling who was closest to their parents unduly influenced them to change their wills.

Disputes also emerge when one of the siblings is named personal representative of the estate, and the other siblings grow suspicious of that person's business dealings on behalf of the estate. While a personal representative only has authority to make decisions in the best interest of all the heirs and beneficiaries, sometimes a brother or sister may begin to believe that this is not in fact the case.

While it is always best for siblings to communicate well with each other in order to prevent probate disputes, sometimes probate litigation is simply unavoidable due to the nature of the controversy or the personality of the parties involved.

Source: The Metro West Daily News, "Sibling rivalry in probate disputes," Patricia L. Davidson, July 27, 2014

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