Some families can't get along even in the best of times -- so you definitely can't count on them to get along during the worst of times.
But what if you aren't sure whether or not your family will abide by your wishes once you're gone? Experts say that there are certain signs that can clue you in that your family is going to go to battle over your estate:
1. There's some intense sibling rivalry happening. If one of your children thinks that another is unfairly favored or babied by you, the aggrieved sibling may try to even the score once you're gone. This sort of thing can be even worse if you advanced one of your heirs money for something while you were alive and didn't do the same for the others.
2. Your heirs have vastly different financial situations. If one of your heirs has a luxury lifestyle already, your heirs of more modest means may resent an equal split. There may also be complications if you leave an asset to your heirs jointly when one can afford to hold onto it and let it mature in value and the other wants to sell it right away in order to meet more immediate needs.
3. One or more of your heirs suffers from a mental illness or chemical dependency. Either of those issues can skew thinking under normal circumstances -- the added stress of a death and all the decisions that have to be made surrounding your earthly possessions can make coping harder and aggravate emotional problems.
4. You have a child that's estranged or disinherited, or there are children from multiple marriages. Nothing can get family members fighting harder than when someone is excluded. If you disinherit one heir, for example, your estate may be challenged based on the idea that you were subject to undue influence from the others.
Fortunately, if you know in advance that your will is likely to cause conflicts, you can often minimize problems using a combination of anticipation and careful planning. For example, prudent use of trusts, appointing a professional fiduciary as a trustee and disposing of some assets while you are still living can help minimize problems.
For more information on how our firm approaches issues involving wills, including how to plan in advance for suspected problems, please visit our page.