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Preventing estate planning disputes and contests

You may be one of the fortunate few whose children get along well as adults. For whatever reason, the siblings in your household grew to respect each other and remain friends, perhaps even best friends. However, this is not always the case, so if your children bicker and maintain childhood rivalries, you may feel comforted to know you are not alone.

Nevertheless, the dynamic of your family may be especially concerning to you as you consider making your estate plans. Whether your children are friends, enemies or somewhere in between, you certainly don't want your last will and testament to be the cause of tension or turmoil among them.

Executor expectations

One of the surest ways to create chaos among your children is to provide no will or trust. An estate without a plan is subject to California law. A court will appoint someone to administer the estate and distribute the assets according to state statutes. Of course, a long probate process often creates tension among siblings, especially if the court places one of them in charge of the assets. Creating a plan that clearly outlines your wishes may shorten probate and reduce confusion and uncertainty.

You may designate an executor in your will, but the same problem may arise as when the court appoints someone. To avoid this, estate planning advocates recommend including your children in discussions as you plan your will. If your children understand the reasons for your choice of executor, they may be less likely to resent the decision.

Imbalances and eliminations

It's nobody's business what you do with your assets, but if your goal is to avoid conflict among your children, you may consider striving for the most equitable division of your assets as possible.

On the other hand, perhaps one of your children has little need for your money while another may greatly need a little boost. Perhaps you, as many other parents, have one child that has shown especial attention to you or dedication to your needs and interests, while another has remained distant. It is your right to consider an uneven inheritance under these or other circumstances.

In fact, you may even choose to leave someone out of your will completely. However, it is possible that a child who is disinherited may contest the will, dragging your other heirs through probate litigation that may be an expense they cannot afford. If it is your wish to disinherit a child, including an explanation in your will may preempt attempts at a contest. Additionally, open conversation with your children about these and other estate planning matters may work to your advantage and prevent unpleasant surprises that can damage relationships for years to come.

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Law Office of Jeffrey B. Pape, P.C.
642 Pollasky Avenue
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Clovis, CA 93612

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