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Disagreements in blended families can lead to probate litigation

Disagreements between members of blended families can go on subtly for years. Often there is one family member who glues the others together as a family, and when that person dies, the smoldering disagreements can escalate into probate litigation. Stepmothers and their stepchildren may be especially prone to disagreements when it comes to the estate of the family's patriarch.

A news article on the subject suggests that short marriages may be partially to blame for this phenomenon. When short marriages affect long-term estate plans, the possibility of undue influence seems possible, especially when the estate plan favors the children's stepmother. Other potential factors in this phenomenon include the stepmother favoring her own children, disagreements about where the deceased's body will rest, and important information about final arrangements being hidden.

Possible alternatives to probate litigation

Probate litigation can be a long, expensive and emotionally draining process. Members of blended families who are involved in inheritance disputes may be interested in trying alternatives to traditional litigation.

Arbitration is one alternative. In this process, each side typically selects an arbitrator, and the two arbitrators select a third arbitrator. The dispute is presented to the three arbitrators, who make a decision about the case by a majority vote.

Mediation is another common alternative to litigation. In this process, one mediator helps facilitate discussion between the opposing parties and tries to work the opposing parties toward a resolution.

There are times when arbitration or mediation do not adequately resolve disputes and probate litigation may be appropriate. However, it is a good idea to consider alternative methods for dispute resolution, when possible.

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Mason & Helmers
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