Creating a will is an essential part of any comprehensive estate plan, but too often disputes over estate assets -- along with the resulting heartache among family members -- are due to mistakes in the will or failure to update it when major life events occur.
Estate beneficiaries find themselves in disputes for a variety of reasons. The grief of losing a loved one, unresolved divorce-related issues, mental health issues, lack of mental capacity, and deep-seated family disagreements can all factor largely. In most cases, though, the main cause of conflict is inaccurate or inappropriate estate planning.
The practice of estate litigation often involves handling disputes over the emotionally fraught matter of disinheritance. In some cases, disinheritance is unintentional -- the result of an oversight or poor planning. In other cases, family members find themselves explicitly disinherited in the deceased's will.
Shortly before his death in 2013, Ontario native and billionaire Paul Desmarais gave his older brother Louis $5 million. This wasn't a gift, says the elder Desmarais in a recent lawsuit. The money was a partial payment related to an agreement the brothers struck back in 1979.
The recent nullification of an Ontario man's will could have wide-ranging implications in estate litigation in the province. A judge rejected the man's will on the grounds that it is racist and "offends not only human sensibilities but also public policy."
Estate litigation is often a result of conflicts that did to get addressed during the estate planning process. Much of estate planning involves consideration of specific family dynamics. For example, maybe one heir to an estate handles money matters particularly well, while another certainly doesn't -- or at least not yet. To protect estate assets, you can account for family dynamics with a number of estate planning items, including your will and, if you choose, a trust.