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10 important statistics about sibling estate disputes

You and your siblings fall into a dispute after your parents pass away and they leave you an inheritance. No one thinks the will is fair, and you wind up in court.

It's not a pretty sight. Not only do you feel like you're losing what is rightfully yours -- and perhaps you are -- but it really pits you and your siblings against one another. You do not talk about anything else and you wonder, when it's all over, if you will ever talk again.

To get some perspective on how and why these disputes happen, and the impact they can have, here are a few important statistics from a survey of people in a situation just like yours:

  • Roughly 66 percent of people who got into a sibling dispute over a will claimed, when it ended, that they did not regret it. This could indicate that they got what they wanted or felt that the court set an injustice right.
  • That said, a full 30 percent of people claimed that the remaining members of the family stopped talking to each other as a result of the dispute.
  • When asked if they were "still very much divided," 30 percent confirmed that that was the case.
  • The news is not all bleak, though. About 12 percent claimed that the dispute did no lasting damage to their family relationships.
  • 44 percent of these estate disputes involve siblings; that means these legal disagreements are more common for them than with other relatives.
  • You may feel surprised that arguments only revolved around money in 32 percent of the cases, or roughly one out of every three. That was the second more common reason.
  • The top reason was land and property disputes. They made up 51 percent of the cases. The reason could be that it is harder to divide land. Money can get split down the middle, but land that gets willed to two siblings can cause problems if one wants to sell it and the other wants to keep it.
  • Jewelry and personal possessions came in third on the list, causing 21 percent of the disputes.
  • In 17 percent of the cases, siblings disputed over the person who had been picked to be the estate's executor.
  • In 41 percent of the cases, the siblings said that negligence or incompetence meant the will should not stand.

Of course, every case is unique, but these statistics help to give you some insights into the issue and perhaps shed more light on your own situation. These disputes can get complex when close family members cannot agree. It is important to make sure you really understand all of your legal options.

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