4 Signs That Your Family May Fight Over Your Estate

The loss of a loved one is often one of the most trying times you will experience in your life. From making funeral arrangements and navigating through the stages of grief to managing and settling the estate, it is easy for disputes to arise between family members. Fortunately, a majority of the disputes can be resolved amicably. To do so, it is essential to identify strategies to keep the peace in your family without the added worry of conflict among your heirs.

Here are some warning signs that estate conflicts may plague your family members after you pass away:

Rivalries Between Siblings

The truest test of a strong relationship between siblings is enduring the loss of a parent. Different grieving behaviors may trigger former resentments to surface. Siblings may see an estate dispute as an opportunity settle old scores, which can cause irreparable damage to the relationship. Reduce the occurrence of potential disputes by appointing a professional fiduciary as trustee, who can diplomatically alleviate and negotiate any rivalries between siblings.

Socio-economic Imbalances

A socio-economic imbalance between an estate’s heirs has the power to derail the entire process. For example, a wealthier heir may have less interest in immediately selling off family possessions for monetary gain, while a less wealthy sibling may be in dire straits for the money. This issue becomes more complex with the addition of each heir. You can easily avoid these imbalances by creating and leaving behind specific instructions for the sale or preservation of personal property, family heirlooms, business interests, and real estate. Precise instructions on your wishes for the disposition of these illiquid assets can help to reduce or alleviate these disputes.

Marriages Late in Life

Some find love and companionship later in life, which can fuel resentment toward the new spouse and their children in blended families. Spare your family the difficult issues often presented in the disposition of your property among your natural children and a step-mother or step-father and their children by regularly reviewing and updating your will and trust. The goal is to make your intentions clear as to how your property is to be distributed among the various members of a blended family.

Undue Influence

When it comes to the management of a loved one’s end-of-life care, it is common for one family member to carry a bulk of the caretaking responsibilities. Unfortunately, as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, caregiver intimidation for personal gain is on the rise. This can happen both when a family member or close friend is the caregiver, as well as when the caregivers are paid professionals. Prevent an occurrence of undue influence by paying attention to your aging parents, and any unusual behaviors or actions they might take. Monitor your parents’ mental capacity and their ability to understand and manage their own finances, pay their own bills, or otherwise take care of their financial needs. Have they opened up a new bank or brokerage account, or been taken to an attorney’s office to “sign papers”? Is the family member or caregiver restricting other from visiting? Is the elderly parent giving away property, putting others as joint owners of bank accounts, or making large gifts to a single family member or to caregivers? These are signs that someone might be unduly influencing the elderly person to dispose of their money or property in ways that are not what they truly wanted to do.


In need of advice and guidance in relation to disputes or disagreements regarding a will, trust, or estate? Our firm provided clients with candid advice and reliable legal guidance in a variety of complex fiduciary disputes. Schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.