Preventing a Family Feud: Advice for Navigating Inheritance Disputes
By Paul Jarvis, CFP®
Areavoices Financial Planning Blog
Many emotions surround the death of a loved one – sadness, regret, loneliness, stress. Inheritance disputes only increase the stress of losing a loved one, creating tensions and rifts between families and often resulting in costly and time-consuming lawsuits.
Here are several paths that a “would-be or should-be” beneficiary can take if he or she feels short-changed in an inheritance.
Go to court. To pursue legal remedy, the aggrieved party must have legal standing as a beneficiary of the decedent, as a creditor, or as a legal claimant against property in the estate. This would include anyone who is actually named as a beneficiary in the estate documents as well as anyone who would have a right to the estate if a will did not exist or was deemed invalid.
Legal mediation outside of court. This involves using a trained mediator, often an attorney, who seeks to forge a contractual agreement among the affected parties. Mediation is frequently a good solution for smaller disputes or in cases where confidentiality is paramount.
Have a preventive plan. The best way to deal with inheritance disputes is to do everything possible to make sure they never happen. This means rethinking how good estate planning works. Rather than being a “once and done” exercise that you undertake when you get older, estate planning needs to be ongoing, and frequently reviewed and revised to keep pace with changing circumstances and family dynamics.
Thoughtful and intentional estate planning during life can dramatically reduce family inheritance disputes. Very few people wish to simply pass on their estate; they are passing on family values and memories that were the sum of their lives.
It’s crucial to keep in mind potential inheritance disputes when creating an estate plan, and to include language and provisions that anticipate and limit the possibility of legal challenges among your beneficiaries. Consult with a CFP® professional who can help you and your family to develop a plan that will clearly outline your hopes and wishes for their future.
Read more by visiting: LetsMakeaPlan.org
Paul Jarvis is a CFP Board Ambassador and leads United Capital’s office in Fargo. Read more of Paul’s blog by visiting financialplanning.areavoices.com or by calling 701-293-2076.