Family Inheritance Disputes: Why They Arise and How to Resolve Them

Make an end-of-life plan that’ll keep the peace.
Family Inheritance Disputes: Why They Arise and How to Resolve Them

When it comes to inheritance, family disputes are unfortunately not uncommon *insert dramatic sigh*. It’s also not uncommon for families to end up in a court battle of contestation if they pick up on something worth fighting for.

The frustration, disappointment and possible anger that can arise from these types of disagreements can be extremely challenging, especially because they always occur at a time where a family should be banding together and supporting each other.

We’ve listed a few reasons families fight over inheritance to help shed light on some of the various approaches you can take to reach a favourable conflict resolution.

Conflict Over Inheritance of Physical Assets

Smaller, wealth-based inheritance disputes have a better chance of being settled out of court, but things can be a bit trickier when it comes to physical assets. These are hard to share and distribute among family members, making the bequest of a family home – for example – a pretty difficult matter. The situation may be made even more complicated if one child continues to live in a family home that is designated to be shared among siblings.

Other physical assets, such as farmland or those relating to a family business, can also pose great estate administration challenges. Typically, people aim to pass a family business to one heir in order to protect it. Problems can arise, though, if a family member is promised the inheritance or given a verbal indication that they’ll receive it, and then is left out of the Will. This can happen even if the presumed heir has worked in the business in expectation of the inheritance. A tough situation, we know.

Sibling Inheritance Inequity

Having many siblings, step-siblings, estranged siblings or a large extended family can make it harder to find common ground when dividing assets. However, if the wishes of your loved one are clear and legally spelled out, it might be best to take a step away from the conflict and let the words of your loved one (as written in their Will and Letter of Wishes) do the talking.

Disruption Caused by Divorce

Conflicts between ex-partners can become court battles between children and the surviving parent. While we wish we could predict the future (how good would that be?), it’s practically impossible to know what the resolution of every unique situation will be. There’s no clear-cut way to decide on how assets should be managed and divided, and there’s no rulebook for deciding on who gets what.

One certainty is that divorce can leave a bitter legacy when it comes to inheritance, and unsettled divorce conflicts can continue to haunt children even after their parents have died.

Avoiding and Resolving Inheritance Disputes

Firstly, we’d always recommend writing and updating your Will to ensure your wishes are known.

And if you’re looking for a simple tip? Planning for as fair (and equal) distribution as possible can often help minimise conflict later on, even if an uneven distribution feels warranted. Focusing on a fair distribution of assets and clearly communicating your wishes before the time comes means that the expectations of your loved ones are better managed.

Wrap Up

Continually monitoring and updating your estate plan is one of your best lines of defence against family inheritance disputes. Same goes for monitoring and updating your Will – have you done that lately?

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