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Sibling disputes and how they give way to probate litigation

When a family member dies, even the closest of siblings can become estranged, especially when money or property is at stake. Probate issues have a way of bringing out siblings’ stubbornness and reviving contentious emotional discussions as well. Because most siblings don’t find themselves involved in probate litigation until they reach their 50s or 60s means that there’s a lot of emotional baggage.

There are a number of contentious issues that ultimately end up with siblings looking to litigate a case in front of a probate judge. Perhaps one of the most common reasons is a child attempting to challenge his or her parents’ will. This most often occurs when a sibling has been named executor of their parents’ estate, yet has failed to adequately perform their responsibilities to its beneficiaries.

Litigation that occurs because of this most often does so because a will or trust treats one child differently from another. Parents may elect to treat one child differently from another simply because one child is deemed to be more well off than another or because one has become estranged geographically or psychologically.

Parents can greatly mitigate any potential risk of a will or trust being perpetually stuck in probate if they simply engage in adequate estate planning while still alive.

If a will or trust is challenged, one argument that a child may use against another is that they had undue influence over the parent. That child may have even inappropriately used a power of attorney in a way that gave him or her added advantage when his or her parent was in one of the most vulnerable states. At the same time, they may have done everything right.

Another argument that a sibling is that the executor of the estate made decisions that were not in the best interest of the beneficiaries, but instead self-serving. Or, if a parent dies without a well-planned estate, or intestate (without a will), disputes can arise over who gets what. These are two other examples of situations that may end up in probate litigation.

If you and your sibling are not seeing eye to eye with respect to the execution of your parents’ will, then you may need to seek out the guidance of an experienced Los Angeles probate attorney.

Source: www.metrowestdailynews.com, “Sibling rivalry in probate disputes,” Patricia Davidson, accessed May 19, 2017

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