How Family Conflicts Can Threaten Your Estate

Many people assume that estate taxes and probate courts are the biggest threats that decedents and heirs alike face when it comes to the proper administration of an estate. While it is true that the probate process can make it more difficult and more time-consuming for heirs to collect their inheritances and estate taxes can take a large bite out of a testator’s assets, it is conflict between family members that actually places testators most at risk. While these are not new issues, they are becoming more prevalent, which can be attributed to increased life expectancy, as well as the increasing number of blended families.

Whatever the cause, conflict between family members is often responsible for long contentious court battles over the validity of wills and trusts, which can drain the estate’s finances, leave a testator’s wishes unfulfilled, and irrevocably damage the relationship between family members. To ensure that this type of family conflict does not occur after your own death, you should strongly consider contacting an experienced estate planning lawyer who can take steps to protect the interests of both you and your named beneficiaries.

What Leads to Family Conflict?

Even tight knit families can butt heads over an inheritance. This type of conflict can usually be attributed, at least in part, to unrealistic expectations, as many beneficiaries are never told how much they should expect to receive. This can lead to confusion and conflict down the road, especially if an heir becomes convinced that he or she was tricked out of an inheritance by another relative. Conflict also often arises between ex-spouses and children from prior marriages, while wills and trusts that have confusing or contradictory terms can be litigated for years in order to resolve questions about the testator’s intent. Finally, failing to put an estate plan in place at all can leave family members to grapple with their own needs, as well as what they believe to be the wishes of the decedent.

How to Prevent Family Conflict Over an Estate

Ensuring that a proper estate plan is in place and that the terms are explicitly laid out and updated after the birth or death of a relative, a remarriage, or the finalization of divorce is critical to avoiding litigation over an estate. Many people also find that it is helpful to begin transferring some parts of their estate to their children and loved ones during their lifetime. Aside from saving money on estate and gift taxes, this allows testators to influence how their children use the property and can also nip any arguments in the bud. However, clearly communicating the terms of an estate to relatives and being represented by an attorney who can ensure that an estate plan is airtight remain the best ways to prevent contests over an estate at a later date.

Contact Us Today for a Consultation

Family conflicts over an estate can be expensive and time-consuming and can result in the destruction of important relationships. To learn more about avoiding family conflict over your own estate, please contact the dedicated Evanston estate planning attorneys at Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd. Attorneys at Law by calling 847-325-5559 today.

Updated as of July 2019
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