Parents often spend a long time thinking about the best and most reasonable way to split property among children in their estate plan. Some parents opt to evenly split everything among them. Others assign specific assets to certain people.
Either approach has benefits and potential drawbacks in terms of estate administration and how the family reacts to the estate plan. Siblings may occasionally bitterly disagree about what their parents want to do with their property. What happens when siblings inheriting assets from family members disagree about the estate plan?
Stress and family drama often result from inheritance disputes
In a family with four children, only one of them wanted to go into the family business. While all four kids had to work at the company as teenagers, three moved on to pursue other careers. One stayed as the manager of the company.
When the parent who owned the business died, their estate plan instructed the executor to sell the company, giving the child working there the first right of refusal. They should then split the proceeds of the sale evenly among the four children. While three children in the family find that solution reasonable and fair, the child who worked for the family business is angry with what most would agree is a reasonable plan.
They may cut their siblings out of their life in retaliation for what they perceive as an unfair outcome. They could also start badmouthing their deceased parent, even though they have always earned a generous salary because of their position. The dissatisfied sibling could also reduce everyone’s inheritance by dragging the estate through probate.
Dissatisfied family members may seek solutions in court
Dissatisfaction on its own is not grounds to challenge a last will, but those inspired by greed are often creative in how they describe family situations. They might grasp at straws to try to convince the courts of undue influence by family members or a lack of testamentary capacity on the part of their parents.
Not only could their accusations do damage to their family relationships and the reputation of their deceased parent, but the probate proceedings could substantially diminish the value of the estate. While only one heir may cause the issues, everyone will usually have to share the loss.
Avoiding or quickly resolving probate conflicts requires transparency from the testator and acceptance from family members.