Distributing assets to beneficiaries can be a difficult process. Add complicated family dynamics to the equation, and you have great potential for conflict. Even families who get along can find themselves bickering and fighting over assets. Here are some of the most common inheritance disputes, with tips to resolve them. Or better yet – avoid them altogether.
No Valid Will
Many inheritance conflicts arise when a person dies without a Last Will and Testament outlining how they want their assets distributed. Family members may fight over what they believe the deceased owes them or how they believe the deceased would have wanted the assets divided. This can draw out the probate process and cause family conflicts for years.
The simplest way to prevent this scenario is to work with an estate planning attorney to put together a valid and comprehensive estate plan. However, this may not prevent all disputes. Beneficiaries may want to consider working with a mediator or neutral third-party agent or estate planning attorney to resolve disputes.
The Perception of Inequality
A common scenario in a family of multiple siblings is to establish a will that divides assets equally among them. While this may seem equitable from the outside, individual family members may feel the decedent has shortchanged them in their will. Perhaps they took care of the relative prior to his or her passing, using their own resources and time. The beneficiary may feel entitled to a larger portion of the estate’s assets.
A mediator or attorney can work with the beneficiaries to reach an agreement among the siblings.
Other Tips to Prevent Inheritance Disputes
Always make sure to consult with your attorney before making any changes to your estate plan. The best way to resolve disputes of an inheritance is avoiding them entirely. Here are some tips to keep the estate settlement process a harmonious one:
- Create a Personal Property Memorandum to address who should inherit personal property – particularly with items with sentimental value, as these are frequent causes of family disputes.
- Review your asset titles to make sure the ownership type is what you intend.
- Regularly update your estate plan to account for changes in beneficiary designations or wishes for the distribution of your assets.
- Discuss your estate plan with your family to avoid any surprises in your will that may cause conflict.
- Choose an executor for your estate who will be able to mediate between beneficiaries.