Bay Area Estate And Tax Planning Law Firm

3 ways to prevent family members from fighting over an estate

On Behalf of | May 17, 2024 | Estate Planning |

An individual with property that they hope to leave to others when they die want that legacy to be a positive influence on others. Unfortunately, estates have a tendency to disrupt families and cause major conflicts. The fights that erupt over inheritances can worsen sibling rivalries or drive a blended family apart. Even families that have previously enjoyed an overall positive dynamic are at risk of lasting conflicts related to estate administration after someone dies.

Particularly in cases where people take their conflicts to probate court, disagreements about an estate could diminish how much everyone inherits. How can a testator who wants to have a positive impact on their loved ones work to prevent fighting over their legacy when they die?

Including a no-contest clause in a will

One of the simplest ways to prevent families from fighting over the assets in an estate is to penalize frivolous litigation. A no-contest clause included in a will allows the probate courts to eliminate someone’s inheritance if they bring unnecessary litigation. California probate court judges have the authority to enforce those clauses in many circumstances. Many people feel less inclined to challenge a will in the hopes of increasing their personal inheritance if they must gamble their inheritance to increase it.

Adding a trust to the estate plan

There are a variety of reasons for people to contest or challenge a will. Taking legal action against a trust is typically more difficult. Additionally, a trust provides more opportunities to give long-term instructions and clarify personal wishes. A trust can therefore be a way to deter family members from challenging testamentary documents.

Talking in advance about plans

Emotions including disappointment and shock are often what lead to people fighting over estate plans. They have maintained expectations for years that may not align with the terms included in a will. Someone who thinks they are the favorite child might expect to inherit their parents’ business or home, and they may question a will that requires they share those assets with their siblings.

Testators who take the time to talk with their family members at length about their wishes, especially when they intend to leave uneven inheritances, can largely prevent conflicts related to surprise and disappointments. People have years to come to terms with someone’s legacy wishes and can express their disappointment to the testator directly rather than taking their feelings out on other beneficiaries.

Careful estate planning can increase what beneficiaries receive from an estate and can reduce the likelihood of probate proceedings damaging family relationships. Those who plan for the possibility of estate-related conflicts generally have less to worry about regarding their final legacy.