We all hear horror stories about siblings becoming estranged after the death of a parent because they couldn’t agree about who should get their mom’s teapot. Unfortunately, most estate planning and probate attorneys can tell you these stories have a basis in fact. What you might not realize is that those family conflicts can also become incredibly expensive. It is common for people to be very emotional about their family member’s possessions after their death which can make it difficult to fully analyze the cost of contested probate litigation.
For example, if an estranged sibling pops back up after a parent’s death demanding to receive sentimental family heirlooms when the other siblings cared for their ill parent, it is understandable that this might cause tempers to flair. There are any number of family dynamics that can cause tension after the death of a loved one. But at what point is litigation not worth the cost? Unfortunately, there is no black and white answer to this question. The good news is that a probate attorney can talk to you about a range of options to resolve intra-family conflict. Many judges require parties to attempt to mediate their disagreements before having a hearing. This can mean the parties’ own attorneys creating a dialogue to resolve the conflict, or hiring a professional mediator to act as a neutral party who can work with all parties to craft a compromise.
The emotional aspects of dealing with a loved one’s death can also be compounded by the logistical concerns of distributing their estate while navigating unfamiliar legal processes. Understanding Mom or Dad’s Will is not always easy, and knowing how property should be distributed when someone dies without a Will can be just as tricky. Maybe your family has to open probate or understand the terms of a parent’s Trust. All of these things can lead to confusion for relatives who are not familiar with these procedures. This can cause frustration and resentment. Clear advice and communication can be the key to stopping family fights before they escalate.
It is in everyone’s best interest to resolve intra-family conflict in a way that does not eat up all of the assets in the estate. If you find yourself in a tense family conflict after the death of a loved one, remember that an attorney can help you work out a resolution without litigation in many instances, or help you brainstorm the most efficient way of resolving the conflict while preserving the assets in the estate.
If you find yourself or a loved on having trouble navigating probate or needing help to resolve a conflict between family members, call an estate planning or probate attorney, or call our office at 505-872-0505 to schedule a meeting with one of our attorneys.