A Commitment

to Each Client.

Sibling disputes: Stopping estate disputes before they start

No heir is technically entitled to anything if you decide not to include him or her in your will. However, you decided that you want to make sure your heirs are left with as much money as possible, so they have a step up in life.

The problem is that you’re positive they’ll fight over the way you’re distributing your assets. You have reasons for doing things the way you are, though. How can you avoid causing a family feud?

1. Talk about your plans before death

One good way to avoid fights is to be clear about your intentions while you’re alive. It’s hard for people to argue with your decisions when you’re standing in front of them and explaining your actions.

Talk to each of your heirs individually about what to expect, but also sit down and have a conversation together. Allow your heirs to state their concerns and listen to what they have to say. If everyone knows what your intentions are and can understand why you’re doing the things you are, it’s easier for them to accept the reality following your death.

2. Be fair

One of the best ways to avoid disputes is simply to be fair. This doesn’t mean you have to distribute things equally, but you should think about what’s fair for your children and heirs. It’s more likely that a fight will erupt if you leave most of your assets to one heir and little to the others without a clear explanation. How you divide your estate is up to you, but make sure you’re clear about why you’re doing what you’re doing. Be as fair as possible.

You may wish to list out all the loans or gifts you’ve given over the years if your estate distribution doesn’t appear fair. That way, there’s less for each person to argue over.

3. Be strict in your will

Finally, remember that you can be strict in your will and make it nearly impossible to challenge. You could add terms to the will that state that your beneficiaries may not challenge it, but if they do and lose, they’ll lose their right to anything. This is harsh, but it means that your heirs will be less likely to argue with your decisions or start a conflict following your death.

These are a few tips that can help you avoid causing a family conflict because of your estate. Families have been destroyed over conflicts in the past, but with some planning, you can make sure that yours sticks together through the tough times.

FindLaw Network
LCA Litigation Counsel of America Fellow
ACTEC The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel
My Estate and Legacy Planner