How to Navigate the Probate Process with Rival Siblings

How to Navigate the Probate Process with Rival Siblings

Trillions of dollars pass through the probate process each year, and this process aims to ensure a deceased person’s last wishes as stated in his or her will. Unfortunately, many circumstances can prevent an individual from appropriately conveying his or her last wishes and intentions for disbursement of property and assets after death. Some people wait too long and illness, mental deterioration, or even death prevent having these discussions with spouses and children, leaving surviving kin to argue over who receives what out of the estate.

Preparation is Key

A person building an estate should take the time to carefully inspect every aspect of the estate and his or her living will or trust to ensure there is no room for speculation or misinterpretation. It’s wise to include provisions that apply should the estate holder fall ill or otherwise become incapable of making important life decisions. It’s also wise to carefully name a trustworthy executor for the estate, and some may even wish to include substitute choices for executor should the first choice refuse the responsibility or fail to execute the estate in good faith.

If you are creating your estate, it’s a good idea to take time to communicate the logic behind your decisions to family members. Many estate disputes arise out of hurt feelings, resentment, and confusion. A surviving family member may feel hurt or forgotten if he or she received no inheritance or even a mention in the will, or receives less of an inheritance than expected. If you have reasons for these decisions, be sure to convey them sooner rather than later, so your surviving loved ones don’t feel neglected or overlooked after your death.

Be Specific and Update Regularly

The sooner you start building your estate plan the better. However, this means you are more likely to need to make changes to your estate in the future. If you obtain additional assets later, you will need to meet with your attorney to add them into your will and determine what to do with them after your death. Additionally, it’s wise to meet with your estate attorney on a regular basis to clear up any co-ownership confusion or to designate specific pieces of property or assets to specific recipients.

Your attorney may also advise you to include directions for disbursing family heirlooms and items of sentimental value among family members. Having these wishes in writing will help surviving family members understand their passed loved one’s intentions and feel more comfortable with the final determinations. It’s always best to include as much direction and detail as possible when composing your final wishes.

Although most parents like to think the best of their children, the reality is that many adult children will seize a parent’s elderly nature and infirmity to take advantage of their financial assets for personal gain. A well-constructed will and estate can help protect parents in their elderly years so they receive the care they need while living according to their wishes. For all these concerns, an estate planning attorney will be a fantastic asset.