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Family estate disputes are often about something more than money

On Behalf of | Oct 3, 2023 | Estate Litigation

Estate planning allows for someone to provide financial and practical support for their loved ones and to leave a lasting impression on the world when they die. Given that many adults do not embrace the estate planning process, families often feel grateful to learn that someone has taken the time to put together documents arranging for the descent of their property after their passing.

Unfortunately, for some families, the reading of a will after someone’s death might be the beginning of a protracted family dispute. Probate conflicts related to someone’s estate plan can be very personal and can potentially do lasting damage to family relationships. These are some of the reasons why people with close ties often end up fighting over the resources left behind by a loved one.

Pre-existing conflicts

Some probate disputes are easy to predict because the people arguing about the estate have historically had a tense relationship. Siblings who have consistently competed with each might end up fighting over their parents’ property in probate court. Stepparents and their stepchildren might bitterly fight over real property, businesses and financial resources. The estate does not cause the conflict but merely serves to exacerbate a pre-existing negative dynamic between people with an intimate family relationship.

Issues with the documents

Perhaps there have been subtle tensions in the family but nothing as dramatic as an outright sibling rivalry. If one family member seems to disproportionately benefit from the estate plan and they were in a position to manipulate the testator, other family members may question the validity of the documents. Sometimes, families end up fighting because they believe one person exerted undue influence on the testator or may have engaged in fraud to get what they wanted from the estate. There are also scenarios in which the personal representative administering the estate may not seem to comply with the estate planning paperwork, which might prompt other family members to challenge their actions or their continued service in that role.

The conflicts that occur during probate can tear a family apart and reduce the total value of the estate. Understanding that probate conflicts are often impacted by pre-existing family dynamics may help people better navigate the probate process or prepare more effective estate planning paperwork aimed at reducing conflict in the first place.