The probate process can be very stressful. After losing a loved one, it is difficult to go through and distribute their property. The process is not easy, and the emotional stress is also the reason that there is a high risk of disputes in probate.
During probate, disputes can arise out of many elements involved in the process. So, how can families avoid or mitigate potential disputes?
1. Identify potential issues
Whether you are the chosen executor of your loved one’s will, their surviving spouse or their child, it is helpful to pinpoint issues that could develop into disputes before the probate process even begins. For example:
- Is there a long-standing sibling rivalry between your loved one’s children or their own siblings?
- Did siblings disagree over the care that their parent received at the end of their life?
- Is there a family member who is prone to arguments?
While these issues might not become serious disputes, it is critical to identify them beforehand, just in case.
2. Communicate consistently
Before you enter the probate process, it is also helpful to proactively communicate with your family. This includes everyone, from your immediate family to your extended family. Include any heirs or beneficiaries listed in your loved one’s will.
You should ensure the whole family is aware of:
- Your loved one’s wishes;
- The responsibilities of the executor or personal representative of the estate;
- Rules for moving forward in probate; and
- How the executor and family will keep each other informed.
This communication should not stop once probate begins. It is essential to actively communicate with family members and stay on the same page throughout the entire process. Open communication can help prevent disputes or handle them effectively.
3. Understand your rights
Probate can be a complex process. So, understanding your rights – as an heir, beneficiary or executor – can help you move forward with confidence.
It is often helpful to speak with an experienced probate attorney to better understand your rights and how you can protect them during the process to prevent a dispute.