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Will your family go through an estate dispute?

When a family member dies, they often have an estate that needs to be distributed. When a person dies with an estate plan, that process can be much easier. But, occasionally an estate dispute can occur which can lead to unexpected stress and heartbreak. There are some signs that an estate may be disputed, and a family may want to review these to see if this may be a problem in the future.

There are some factors that may increase the risk that a family may wind up in an estate dispute over the death of a loved one, usually a parent or grandparent. First, if there is bitter sibling rivalry, this could lead to disputes. Siblings who have a poor relationship with one another can engage in an estate dispute due to feelings of resentment. Another sign would be if there is economic differences between beneficiaries. Those beneficiaries who do not have as much money as another sibling may want to sell property immediately, while another beneficiary with more means may want to wait. These disagreements often occur with real property.

Another dispute can occur if one beneficiary suffers from mental illness or substance abuse. This irrationality can cause problems during the probate process. Estranged children can often challenge an estate as they have nothing to lose in the process. Undue influence by another party or a marriage late in life can often lead to estate disputes. When one person was responsible for most of the caretaking of a parent, the other siblings may challenge their sibling's role in the parent's estate plan. And, a late marriage can lead to the resentment of the new spouse by the children.

Despite even the most careful planning, an estate dispute is still a possibility. Families who are going through this situation may want to consult with an attorney who has experience in probate litigation. An attorney can view the situation as an outsider and offer their client valuable advice as to what they believe should happen.

An estate dispute is something families do not want to go through after the death of a parent or grandparent. But, sometimes they can't be avoided. Knowing the warning signs can help a person think through their estate and potential problems.

Source: FindLaw, "Estate Administration: The Will After Death," accessed on Oct. 14, 2017

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Mason & Helmers
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