Preventing Family Disputes Over Inherited Property

After a family member dies and leaves property or belongings to heirs, it is common to hear about disagreements and even fights. Property inheritance rarely brings out the best in family members. If a loved one left instructions regarding property distribution, it is possible for most people who normally do not get along to set aside any differences and comply with those wishes. On the opposite end of the spectrum, many family members who normally get along well end up fighting after a family member dies. A death in the family has a way of bringing long-dormant relationship issues, jealousies and feuds to the surface.

When the element of surprise is added into the mix, this can create a recipe for disaster. Many people die without leaving hints about how their property will be distributed among heirs. They automatically assume that an attorney or representative will read their will to everyone, and there will be no issues. If wishes are communicated ahead of time in addition to outlining them in the will, everyone will know what to expect. In many cases, people expect to receive certain assets or items, and the owner of those items may not feel the same way about how they should be distributed. Family members who are unhappy about what they will receive or what they will not receive will have time to adjust to reality rather than being surprised later on when their assumptions are proven wrong.

When a person outlines wishes in a will or leaves behind vague instructions without alerting family members before dying, the surprise may land everyone in court. They may be able to settle some disagreements on their own. However, many fights make it to court. Most people create an estate plan to help provide for their surviving loved ones. If survivors end up paying money to fight each other in court over assets or keepsakes, some will actually lose money.

Since there is no rule saying that a person has to leave his or her property to survivors, it may be beneficial to consider other options. If survivors are likely to fight about belongings despite advanced warnings and provisions in a will, it may be better to leave the property and money to a charity. It is good to inform family members of this choice as well. Dividing assets equally may be difficult in many cases, and some people may be cautious to leave hard-earned money to family members who want it but will waste it. Unequal division of assets usually leads to fights and resentment among surviving family members. This is another example of a good opportunity for leaving personal property or money to charity.

Estate planning is a difficult process for people who have heirs to think about and future fights to avoid. To learn more about estate planning options, discuss concerns with an agent.



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