Probate and Estate Lawyer – How to Avoid Heir Disputes
Provided By: Alan G. Orlowsky
Celebrity feuds over estates like the Jackson’s, James Brown’s heirs, and Robin Williams’ Contested Estate often come up in the news, but contested estates happen all of the time to regular families, too. Battles over estates can pit sibling against sibling and tear families apart, according to the WSJ, “When Heirs Collide”. However, there are some lessons that can be learned from celebrity contested estates that can be put into practice in your own estate planning to help mitigate the possibility of your heirs disputing their inheritance.
Reasons for Contested Estates
Heirs dispute over their inheritance for many different reasons. Some battles happen because heirs believe that undue influence was used in the creation of a will or that their loved one did not possess the mental capacity to make the latest iteration of their estate plan, such as Ernie Banks and his estate being contested. Other disputes arise because heirs are unhappy with the amount of their inheritance or do not understand why another heir received more. Finally, fights can arise in contested estates when heirs argue over specific pieces of the estate, such as a vacation home or a piece of jewelry with sentimental value.
The most unfortunate part of contested estates is how much money the heirs lose to fight their loved ones. Global consulting firm Accenture estimates that around $30 trillion of wealth will be passed down through estate plans over the next 30 to 40 years. Roughly 70 percent of families lose some of that wealth, mostly from contesting estates. It is commonplace for an heir to spend more battling their family members over the estate than what they stand to inherit.
How to Avoid Estate Battles
There are many ways to structure your estate and take preemptive steps to avoid having your estate contested by your heirs after your death. For starters, consider the non financial ramifications of the inheritance in addition to the monetary aspects when creating an estate plan. If you have reasons for leaving more to one child than another, consider leaving a video or letter explaining your decision with the executor of the estate.
Communication is vital to mitigating or eliminating contested estates amongst heirs. If there are pieces of property that have specific value to an heir, considering explicitly leaving it to that person in the will. Consider having a discussion with your heirs while you are still alive about who will be inhering what from the estate, or you can ask for their input about what they would like to receive in terms of assets and personal property. While the conversation can be awkward and emotional, knowing what to expect ahead of time can alleviate disputes before they even begin.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney
If you have questions about contesting an estate or wish to mitigate the chances of your estate being contested in Northbrook, Skokie, Evanston, Glenview, Glencoe, or Highland Park, let the experienced estate planning attorneys at Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd. help. Call the office or contact us today for a free and confidential consultation of your case.