Will Your Family Fight Over Your Estate? Can You Stop It?
Many wills end up going through probate without a hitch, but some family disputes can escalate until at least one heir threatens a lawsuit.
What are the odds it could happen to your will? Can you prevent it from happening?
You Probably Can Tell If Your Family Will Fight
It's rare for a family to avoid all disagreements -- however, the fractures in some families run pretty deep. The odds are good that you know if your family has some deeply-held resentments against each other that could lead to a fight when you are gone. Here are some big signs you should be worried:
- Your heirs have an intense dislike for each other and compete for attention
- One or more of your heirs have vastly more wealth than another
- One of your heirs has a mental illness or is addicted to drugs, alcohol, or gambling
- One of your potential heirs is already estranged from you and the rest of the family
- You are on a second (or later) marriage and there are adult children from a prior marriage
- You already gave a substantial sum of money to one of your heirs for his or her needs
All of these issues can trigger harsh feelings between your family members and cause one or more to feel slighted when the will is read. Even dividing everything evenly is not a guarantee that your family won't be angry. For example, if one of your three children is fairly wealthy and the other two have modest incomes, leaving all three equal shares could cause the two of lesser means to feel like they were cheated since the other one doesn't "need" the money.
You Can Find Ways To Protect Your Estate
If you really can't prevent sore feelings because it seems impossible to please everyone, can you stop an estate battle from starting? Fortunately, yes.
A probate lawyer, like David R Webb Attorney, can help you arrange your estate so that, in essence, there's very little in it to fight over. Estate battles are extraordinarily expensive affairs, so the less there remains in an estate at the time of your death, the less incentive an heir has to pursue it. Living trusts are one way to prevent a battle. You can funnel most of your assets into one prior to death and keep them out of your estate. Other methods of disposing of property, like transfer-upon-death deeds, can be used to take something like the family home out of your name before it ever hits probate court.
Talk to your attorney about the potential of a family dispute over your will. You'll gain extra peace of mind by making plans now.