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Should you expect estate litigation if you’re a billionaire?

How are you doing on wealth accumulation? Getting nearer the billion-dollar mark yet?

We pose that question to readers of our estate planning blog at the Bay Area Law Offices of Connie Yi with a bit of humor intended.

At the same time, though, we make no assumptions. After all, billionaires do exist. Reportedly, there are many hundreds of them in the United States, with that number progressively growing. California certainly has its share.

The wealth that they and other phenomenally rich people command is obviously impressive. In fact, it is staggering. An estimate supplied by Bloomberg posits that, “The wealthiest 1% control 37.2%of the country’s personal wealth.”

With such riches comes this heightened risk: estate-linked litigation. When a relative dies with scarcely little to account for in the way of assets, family members and other select parties understandably don’t have much of a reason to wage a pitched legal battle. Conversely, when a family scion has reached advanced age and owns a dozen companies, multiple airplanes, a pro sports team or two and a yacht, well … . What’s in that will, anyway?

The above-cited Bloomberg piece duly stresses the predictability of estate battles among persons close to the uber-wealthy, and the reasons why they commonly occur. The publication makes the obvious point that a planner’s single decision here or there can shift around hundreds of millions of dollars among heirs. Some will gain, others will lose. Given the stakes, who wants to wait passively until a planner dies to find out the results of something so consequential?

And so, lawsuits are filed. They allege many things, ranging from claims that a planner is no longer competent and is being taken advantage of to accusations of will tampering. Children challenge stepparents and vice versa.

Legal acrimony surrounding extremely high-end estates will likely only increase as time goes one. Reportedly, nearly $70 trillion (yes, that’s with a “t”) of wealth is expected to be passed along in the United States to heirs in the next quarter-century.

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