Tips for Preventing Sibling Disputes During the Probate Process

The average probate takes around nine months, but it can be extended even longer when heirs start disagreeing. An unfortunate reality of estate planning is that some siblings end up arguing about how their parents’ property should be distributed. However, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of sibling fights during probate.

Be Very Clear About Who Gets What Item

Most sibling disputes happen when a parent does something like saying, “Divide my jewelry among my daughters.” Then, the sisters end up wanting the same pieces of jewelry, and they get into vicious arguments about what counts as a fair division. This is why estate planning litigation lawyers recommend you create a very clear and detailed will. For anything that you absolutely know you want one child to get, try to list it out in the will. If you have a lot of household items you do not want to individually mention in your official documents, consider tagging these items with the name of the child you want to inherit them. Though tags are not legally binding, they do help cut back on arguments when children know what your wishes are.

Explain Controversial Decisions Ahead of Time

A lot of probate disputes are really about grieving people who are confused by the lack of information left behind by their parents. For example, a child who is blindsided by finding out they were disinherited is more likely to start a big legal battle. Parents should try to discuss their estate planning goals with their children before they pass away. This conversation can feel a little awkward, but it is a good idea. It ensures that no one has any doubts about the parents’ preferences, and it can be a chance for children to work out any tense feelings while their parents are still alive to discuss the issue. People are less likely to argue later if they have had time to discuss the situation and come to terms with it.

Go Ahead and Give Certain Property to Children

One way to cut back on probate time and to reduce disputes is to get your estate planning out of the way early. Talk to your estate planning lawyer about trusts or jointly owned property. Doing things like adding your child’s name to your house’s deed can be a good idea. Not only does it cut back on taxes, but it also allows the home to pass outside of probate. The fewer items you have that need to be divided up during probate, the fewer opportunities there are for siblings to disagree.

Include an Unbiased Mediator in the Process

Technically, you are allowed to name one of your heirs as the executor of your will. However, most estate planning litigation lawyers will advise against doing so. The problem is that it is very easy to stir up arguments when one sibling sees another sibling distributing property and taking charge. It is better to get an independent fiduciary who can step in for any disagreements about your asset distribution. Good choices include someone like an attorney, a CPA, or a trusted friend, since anyone in the family might be a little biased. It can also be a good idea to go ahead and book a professional mediator if you suspect there will be issues. Your children do not have to work with a mediator if they do not want to, but it can be extremely helpful.

A good estate plan is the best thing you can do to reduce disputes among siblings. With help from The Knee Law Firm, there are fewer chances of your children bickering after you pass away. We help with all aspects of estate planning, from writing wills to creating trusts. Our team can also help Hackensack families with estate administration, so there is less stress for your family. Call 201-996-1200 or fill out our online contact form to set up a consultation today.