Money, property, and inheritances are all common causes of family conflict and estate disputes. There is no perfect legal solution or method that will work for every family and prevent all disagreements; however, there are a number of helpful preventative steps you can take. Careful planning can help maintain harmony among family members and alleviate tensions regarding the division and distribution of assets. Individuals prepare sound estate plans to protect their legacy and the future of loved ones. Sadly, unresolved family disagreements, lack of communication, or problems over fiduciary selection can quickly turn into legal battles and put your careful planning and final wishes at risk. Call a seasoned probate lawyer with Von Rock Law at (866) 720-0195 for help with mediation or litigation to resolve family estate disputes.
A significant part of the successful division of assets and property among siblings depends on the steps an individual takes while creating their estate. Taking action before one loses cognitive abilities or passes away is crucial. Proper planning and family discussions can be effective in minimizing the potential for future estate disputes. When the family communicates, gets along well, and is aware of their loved one’s final wishes, that can help mitigate tensions during probate and the distribution of the assets to the beneficiaries.
Fair and equitable distribution of the estate is essential. That does not always mean that all the siblings receive the same amount. Considering interests, such as which beneficiary would enjoy the cabin in the mountains more than the others or love a family heirloom, are also crucial considerations. Every family faces its unique set of personalities and struggles; therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all answer for dividing an estate fairly to avoid disputes. A qualified estate lawyer at Von Rock Law could help mediate and document discussions to reach agreements during estate disputes effectively.
Family heirlooms can be valuable, both sentimentally and financially. Deciding which person should ultimately receive each piece is a vital part of estate planning. Without careful consideration and planning, a dispute among beneficiaries can quickly arise. Some tips to avoid conflicts over family heirlooms include the following:
- Create an in-depth inventory of your family heirlooms, keepsakes, and valuables
- Decide which family members or other beneficiaries should receive each heirloom
- State wishes clearly in Last Will and Testament and other estate planning documents
- Hold family discussions to go over final wishes with the beneficiaries
- If heirlooms or valuables are passed to children, make special arrangements to ensure they are safe until the beneficiaries attain their majority
- Gifting property during a lifetime is also an option
Completing property valuations that comply with federal regulation guidelines could also be helpful for estate tax purposes. According to the instruction provided by the
Internal Revenue Service, a qualified estate heirloom or collectible appraiser must meet the minimum education requirements. The individual must also complete regular professional appraisal reports valuing similar or the same type of property in exchange for payment.
Thorough estate planning that includes heirlooms, keepsakes, and other valuables helps deter unnecessary misunderstandings and friction. Careful estate planning can also help to protect the estate maker’s legacy by shielding and preserving their most loved precious treasures.
There is no legal way to prevent contests to a Last Will and Testament altogether in California. However, careful organizing and preparation during estate planning can make objections more challenging. According to the California Probate Code § 8270, a person who qualifies under the statute has 120 days after the estate representative admits the will to probate to contest the will.
Qualifying parties include beneficiaries and any other individuals or organizations with interest. The petition for the objection of the terms must consist of documentation to support grievances for the court to consider them. Some of the essential steps to prevent family members from contesting the terms of the will include the following:
- Include a no-contest clause; even though the court does not always uphold these provisions, they tend to make disputing the will more challenging.
- Ensure proper completion and execution of all of the legal estate documents
- Obtain proof of mental capacity to include in the estate documents.
- Execute a self-proving clause with a witness’s statement of mental capacity at the time of signing.
- Communicate with beneficiaries throughout the estate planning and updating processes to ensure they are aware of the terms set out in the relevant documents.
A living or revocable trust rather than a Last Will and Testament can also be helpful in preventing will contests. The estate maker’s assets pass to the trust during their lifetime, and upon death, the trustee distributes the assets and property to beneficiaries per the trust’s terms.
Selecting the right personal representative and trustee, also called fiduciary, to manage the estate, is among the most crucial decisions an individual will make during estate planning. Fiduciaries are people or institutions designated to handle vital responsibilities of managing assets, carrying out the terms of the will and estate plan, or managing assets for beneficiaries.
The individual must have a vested interest in the estate to dispute the decedent’s final wishes as expressed in the estate documents. When disputes do arise, the range of settlement options available will depend on the specifics of the disagreement. A fiduciary may ask the court to dismiss the dispute, or one party may propose mediation to reach a mutual agreement. Going to trial to litigate is the most stressful and time-consuming option.
No matter how close families are, disputes and conflicts may arise over estates, including the terms of wills and trusts. Unfortunately, disagreements and family feuds are common. When dealing with emotions over the loss of a loved one, elevated tensions make problems more likely. By knowing the common causes of conflict and disagreements, you can take extra precautions to avoid unnecessary complications. Contact an experienced probate lawyer at Von Rock Law by calling (866) 720-0195 for questions or help to settle family estate disputes.