Many people have a false sense of security about wills; a will is more likely than any other legal agreement to end up in litigation. An estate dispute can bring about a permanent family rift. It may hold up the disposition of estate assets for years and professional fees may consume a good share of the inheritance.
Preventing Estate Disputes
Work together with your siblings and parents to prevent estate disputes by taking the following steps:
- Ask your parents share the terms of their wills with you while they are still alive so you can air concerns with them directly.
- Remind your parents to update their wills when you undergo a name change, have another child, or for any other family change.
- Ask them to document their desired disposition of non-monetary assets, since many estate disputes arise over family mementos and heirlooms. A power of attorney can help your parents document their wishes in a memorandum that lists these assets and their designated recipients.
How to Settle Estate Disputes
If you are involved in an estate dispute, resist the urge to litigate immediately; this is the most costly resolution approach. It could take years and the court proceedings will be a matter of public record. A more cordial and less costly approach is to attempt to reach an agreement in direct discussions under the guidance of a professional mediator. If mediation isn't working, the parties should work through their personal attorneys to try to reach an agreement out of court. Arbitration is another out-of-court option that puts the final decision in the hands of a third party, who acts as a private judge.
Participation in these processes should be limited to the beneficiaries of the estate, and not involve their spouses. It's always easier to achieve resolution when fewer parties are involved.
If you are looking for trustworthy legal counsel in a family estate or trust administration, please contact Baxter & Borowicz today!