5 Common Reasons for Family Conflicts Over Inheritance


When families deal with inheritance, they can sometimes act really badly. Even people who are usually kind and understand their feelings might start arguing like kids. Even if they’re not fighting openly, almost every family seems to have some tension when dealing with inheritance stuff. In reality, family conflict over inheritance of property is a common occurrence. Understanding the root cause and asking for professional help is an imperative solution to prevent current issues from becoming worse.

Family Conflict During Loss and Period of Mourning

When families are fighting over inheritance, it might look like greed, but it’s usually about feeling loved and important. They might fight over money or personal items like a watch or a ring, but they’re really fighting over what these things represent: love, security, and self-worth.

The saying “Money makes people do funny things” doesn’t fully capture why families fight. It’s not just about the money—it’s about what the money represents, like love and acceptance. Also, money and belongings can help ease fears about the future.

A family fighting over inheritance often has deep roots, sometimes going back to childhood. Issues might also arise when outsiders, like a new spouse or an in-law, become involved.

Family inheritance problems are usually not sudden; they often stem from long-standing family issues that come back up after someone dies. These fights aren’t just about greed; they’re about deeper emotional needs and past conflicts.

Some Reasons for Family Disputes Over Inheritance

Inheritance fights among siblings and relatives can really stress family ties and make everyone tense. When family members can’t agree on how to split up a loved one’s estate, it can ruin their memories of each other and make it tough to get past their sadness. Here are some typical inheritance issues and ways to fix them:.

Siblings Cut Out of Wills

A common reason for inheritance fights is when a sibling is left out of a parent’s Will, whether by accident or on purpose. This might happen because:

  • They were deliberately left out, although there are protections for minor children.
  • The Will wasn’t updated after the child was born or adopted.
  • The child is considered “fictive kin,” like a step-child, and not legally recognized as the deceased’s child.

In these situations, disputes can arise if adding the left-out sibling means less inheritance for the others. Often, these are just oversights. For example, paternity can be proved after a parent’s death to claim inheritance, and in places like Florida, laws protect children omitted from Wills by automatically including them, with some exceptions.

If a sibling is intentionally excluded, they might have to challenge the Will in court. They would need to ask the court to disregard the Will and divide the estate according to state’s law.

Dying Intestate

“Dying intestate” means dying without a will. When this happens, the “rules of intestacy” kick in, which divide the deceased’s estate based on family relationships, not on how close these relationships were.

For example, if an unmarried person dies with two children, the estate is split equally between them, regardless of their individual relationships with the parent. This could lead to disputes, especially if one child was distant and the other was very close to the parent.

To prevent these kinds of conflicts, it’s important to make a will that specifies exactly how you want your estate to be distributed.

Blended Families

In blended families with second marriages, children from the first marriage often face disputes over the estate left to the second spouse. Sometimes, spouses create “Sweetheart Wills” or trusts that leave everything to each other, without specifying what happens after the surviving spouse’s death. This means the surviving spouse can choose how to distribute the assets, potentially leaving out step-children.

Moreover, a surviving spouse can claim an “elective share” of 30% of the deceased’s “elective estate,” which includes various assets, not just those in the will. This can complicate matters if the deceased’s will favors their children from a first marriage because the second spouse still gets a significant portion.

To avoid such issues, the couple can sign a premarital agreement that waives any claims the surviving spouse might have on the other’s estate.

Inheritance and Values

Even when families agree on who should inherit, conflicts can still pop up over specific items, like who gets the family home. Siblings who don’t get the property might want their share in money, leading to debates over how much the property is really worth.

That’s why it’s crucial for personal representatives to list all the estate’s properties accurately and on time. They should work with realtors, assessors, and other experts to figure out fair values. Once everything is valued properly, dividing the estate becomes a straightforward math problem to ensure everyone gets their fair share.

Last-Minute Changes to Estate Plans

Some of the toughest inheritance disputes happen when there are surprising changes to someone’s estate plan just before they pass away. These changes can lead people to suspect that the changes were made because of undue influence. This means that even though the will says one thing, it might not actually reflect what the person wanted. Instead, it could have been altered due to manipulation by someone who benefits from the changes. Proving this in court is hard, but it’s often necessary to ensure that family members get their fair share of the inheritance.

Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney

Despite natural tensions and rivalries in families, conflict over estates isn’t unavoidable. Estate planning attorneys play a crucial role in helping families navigate these tensions, just as much as a financial advisor. They advise clients on fair and practical estate planning, discourage punitive measures, and encourage reconciliation among family members. By doing so, they help create plans that leave a legacy of love rather than discord.

These attorneys are also skilled at protecting clients from potential manipulation by family members, ensuring that the estate is divided fairly and that the true wishes of the deceased are respected. In this way, clients learn the value of family harmony, the fleeting nature of material wealth, and the brevity of life.

Resolving Family Conflict Over Property Inheritance with an Estate Planning Attorney

Consider getting help from an estate planning attorney to smoothly handle inheritance matters, ensuring your wishes are respected and your family stays united. This proactive step can prevent misunderstandings and conflicts, preserving both family ties and your legacy. Don’t let unresolved issues and tensions dictate the future; take control today for peace tomorrow.


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