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6 psychological reasons for estate disputes

You and your siblings are involved in a bitter dispute over your parents' wealth. You almost can't believe it's real. You never imagined you'd fight like this, and the passing of wealth from one generation to the next is pushing you apart.

Is it just the money?

Professional psychologists don't think so. They point out that there can be deeper reasons for the fighting between family members. The money may finally spur the dispute -- along with the parents' passing -- but the issues could reach all the way back to childhood. Below are six examples.

1. By age 11, children spend a third of their time with their brothers and sisters.

That statistic only looks at "free" time, but it shows just how much time siblings really spend together. They're with no one but their parents as much, in many cases, and so rivalries and other issues have enough time to grow.

2. First-born children think younger children get spoiled.

Parents may not be as strict with the younger kids, especially the last-born child, as they were with older kids. This could have to do with parents simply learning that some rules don't work or aren't needed. They may also feel more overwhelmed with more children, having less time to put toward parenting, discipline and things of this nature.

3. Middle children feel ignored.

The oldest child and the youngest tend to get the most attention from the parents. This can make middle children feel like the parents ignored them or didn't love them. This may not be true at all, but that resentment can make disputes bitter.

4. Second children are naturally competitive.

Perhaps trying to keep up with older kids, studies have found that second-born kids tend to have a natural competitive streak. This could make them fight harder for what they believe they deserve, or they may try to "win" in court, rather than just going for a fair solution.

5. First-born children make more money.

Some studies have shown that kids who are born first tend to earn more, and it can be significant. One study found that the average was a full $100,000 per year. This difference in personal wealth can lead to disputes as younger children may feel that they deserve more, while older children will still want the split to be even, despite having more of their own.

6. Most people don't have estate plans.

One study indicated that 64 percent of people in the United States don't have estate plans. Nothing makes a dispute more likely than not having a plan in place.

As you can see, there are many factors in play. While every situation is different, it's critical to understand why the dispute is happening and what legal steps to take.

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