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5 common causes of estate disputes

Ideally, a good will and trust would be enough to make sure assets go to heirs smoothly and fairly. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. The estate distribution process often causes confusion and conflict among family members. 

Arguments among heirs may lead to different types of estate litigation, including the following:

Here are some of the most prevalent reasons that estate lawsuits arise.

1. People feel left out

It is common for survivors to associate love with how much of the estate they receive. If a particular family member gets significantly less than another heir, there may be a lot of sadness, frustration and resentment. The person who feels left out may try to determine whether the decedent was a victim of undue influence or manipulation.

2. The executor is not accepting the role

A will determines who is responsible for managing the estate. This person is the executor, whose responsibilities include the following activities:

  • Collecting probate assets
  • Notifying creditors
  • Distributing assets

Sometimes, the individual does not want to fulfill these responsibilities. This may cause some confusion, especially if no alternate executors are designated in the will.

3. A trustee proves untrustworthy

If a decedent set up a trust, he or she names a trustee to handle it. The trustee is responsible for controlling assets, investing assets and administering the trust. Sadly, this person is not always trustworthy. When a trustee misappropriates or wrongfully acquires assets, the heirs may try to remove the trustee from the position. 

4. Underlying problems resurface

The probate process means family members must interact with one another, despite old grievances or suppressed emotions. Heirs may begin to fight over these problems, which can delay the process of figuring out legal and financial concerns. 

5. Status disparities may lead to conflict

Not all heirs have an equal amount of power or influence. There may be multiple imbalances when it comes to age, financial situations and negotiation skills. Certain individuals may dominate the process while others feel unheard. 

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Mason & Helmers
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