An unemployed adult man lives with his elderly mother, whom he says he cares for. His brother is a successful professional with a family.
When their mother passes away, the successful brother learns that her Will designates his brother as the sole beneficiary of her estate. The brother who is the beneficiary of his mother’s estate convinced his mother to draft a new Will leaving her entire estate to him, and then had her hire an attorney to drafted a new Will for her signature.
This real case I handled reflects a common scenario that is a sure sign that a legal fight over the validity of a Will is imminent.
Sibling rivalry can last a lifetime and can take many forms. But when an inheritance causes the feud, stakes and emotions are high. There are some obvious signs you are heading for a fight with your siblings over an inheritance, such as an already acrimonious relationship.
One should consider the below examples of Will disputes between siblings and how this may be avoided:
- If a sibling has a poor relationship with the parent, maybe hasn’t seen or talked to their parent in years, that parent may decide to not name that child as a beneficiary (or a significant beneficiary). If that same sibling also doesn’t get along with his or her brothers and sisters, this scenario becomes more incendiary. However, parents have every right to leave a child out of their Will (disinherit a child). Parents who make this choice should expressly state in the Will that they are disinheriting that child and why. This should help defend the parent’s decision in the event the disinherited child decides to challenge the Will.
- If a sibling has a substance abuse problem and the parent doesn’t trust the child to manage his or her finances responsibly, a parent can still provide for the child, but in a way that ensures the inheritance will be managed responsibly — such as by way of a trust.
- If a sibling appears to be exerting control over the parent’s life and is attempting to isolate the parent from the family, this can lead to a Will contest alleging “undue influence”. There are ways to successfully contest a Will in this situation. However, estate litigation can be very expensive and court action should be avoided whenever possible.
- If one sibling received more financial help from the parent than his or her brothers or sisters —perhaps to pay for school or a new home, it is advisable for the parent to acknowledge the discrepancy and note their intentions as to their other children clearly in the Will.
Our attorneys are well-equipped to advise in the unfortunate situation of a sibling dispute over inheritance. It’s important that you take the proper steps to prepare yourself legally for such a dispute. If you are in this situation or fear you may be headed down that path, schedule a consult with one of our experienced estate law litigation attorneys by calling 856.782.8450 or visiting our website at www.timriceelderlaw.com.