While for many people family is the most important thing in life, it can be difficult sometimes to idealize family dynamics. Every family is different, and when life is shaken by the loss of a loved one, sometimes family members experience bitter conflict for a number of reasons.
Disputes arise under various circumstances, but they seem to be more likely between siblings, or between the stepparent and the deceased's children of a prior relationship. In many cases, however, estate litigation may be avoided through proper communication and effective estate planning.
One of the most important aspects of thorough and thoughtful estate planning is to choose the right executor. As we've discussed in previous posts, being an estate executor is a like a job in itself, and one family member is likely better suited than others to handle the responsibility.
Additionally, when the duties of estate trusteeship are overwhelming, many of the burdens can be alleviated if the executor seeks help from a lawyer with experience in these matters.
As for family disputes after the death of a loved one, common factors include:
- A family member was financially dependent upon the deceased.
- There are questions regarding the validity of the deceased's will or other documents.
- There is dispute over how assets were managed during the deceased's lifetime.
Many conflicts can be prevented through open communication between the stakeholders, although a dispute may not be avoidable in every situation. That is when conflict must be effectively managed to minimize any losses to the estate.
For more on these matters, please see Hagel Lawfirm's overview of estate litigation.