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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Trusts can potentially prevent disputes between loved ones

Parents in Minnesota may not wish to leave equal inheritances to their children, because of their unequal income and resources and their different need for the inheritance. They may also have different expenses such as an upcoming college education for their children or have expenses associated with a child with a disability. A parent may want to completely or partially disinherit one of his or her family members.

An unequal inheritance may cause hurt feelings, sibling conflict and even a will contest in court. Using a trust instead of a will and candidly communicating with heirs and family members may avoid these disputes.

A person's assets must go through probate in court if their assets are transferred through a will. This may lead to conflict because each child must receive a legal notice with a copy of the will. Each heir may also appear in probate court to contest the will. This could lead to prolong and expensive litigation, which may even unravel their parents' wishes.

Trusts, however, lower the likelihood of family disputes over inheritance. Property in a trust is transferred when the parent is alive. The trust identifies the person who receives the inheritance after the parent dies. Children do not receive legal notice.

Fighting a trust is more difficult than challenging a will. Also, parents are usually presumed to have set forth their intentions by setting up a trust.

Speaking to children about intentions may also help avoid future conflict. Sharing reasons for unequal inheritances may lower expectations and the potential for unrealistic expectations over an inheritance.

Careful planning and drafting of these documents may avoid disputes among loved ones and acrimonious litigation and help assure that the parent's wishes are carried out. A lawyer can assist families with this planning and trust creation.

Source: Times Herald-Record, "Trusts can help avoid family feuds over inheritances," Bonnie Kraham, Esq., April 12, 2017

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