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How can you prevent family conflicts over your estate?

No one wants their family to fight over their assets after they're gone. However, even when there's an estate plan in place, family members and other beneficiaries (or people who believe they were left out) may try to dispute the will and other documents in court.

One Los Angeles attorney says that in 90 percent of estate contests, none of the warring parties comes out ahead. Their legal costs may exceed whatever assets they managed to get reallocated to them.

If you know the family dynamics that commonly give rise to estate plan contests, you can determine which ones apply in your case and work to minimize the chances of legal disputes after you're gone. For example, have you remarried later in life? Have your children's sibling rivalries continued into adulthood -- perhaps exacerbated by what they've perceived as preferential treatment by their parents? Have you become estranged from one or more of your kids?

If any of these situations apply, you'll likely need to take additional steps to help your family understand your estate planning decisions. They also need to feel comfortable that you haven't been unduly or unknowingly influenced in your decisions by a new spouse, caretaker or another person in your life.

Even if your family has no grounds to challenge the estate plan in court, that doesn't mean that there won't be conflicts in the administration of the estate. These conflicts can drag out the process, cost money and create hard feelings at a time when family members need each other most.

Your estate planning attorney can help you take steps to avoid disputes over your estate after you're gone. It's essential for people to be honest with their attorneys about their family dynamics. Sometimes, people are embarrassed to admit that their kids don't get along, no one likes their new spouse or they have a child with a substance abuse issue that they're concerned about leaving money to.

Los Angeles estate planning attorneys have heard it all. Their job isn't to judge but to help you ensure that your wishes for your estate and your family are carried out when you're no longer around.

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