When you or a loved one are facing the prospect of saying goodbye, figuring out how to divide up an estate becomes a big deal. Dealing with grief and splitting possessions after someone has passed can stir up all kinds of emotions. So, let's dive into some telltale signs that could suggest your family might not exactly be on the same page as you when you approach the estate division and Will-writing process.
Usually, small inheritance disagreements are settled without the involvement of a judge, but when there's a significant amount of money at stake, the odds of family members disagreeing rise. This is especially true if those family members have different financial standing.
Losing a parent is a real test for sibling relationships, and things can get even more tangled when it's time to divvy up the estate. If your siblings are known for their rocky rapport or are prone to squabbling, that might be a red flag. And if you've got lots of siblings, it can be even more challenging to divvy things up in a way that satisfies everyone.
Marriage & Divorce
Second, third, or even later marriages often bring a bunch of complications with them. The deceased's immediate family might not take kindly to the new additions, making estate division challenging or messy.
Plus, if ex-partners are thrown into the mix, things can get even trickier… especially if those past relationships ended badly.
Estrangement or Disinheritance
Kids who have been estranged or disinherited have little to lose by challenging an estate they're excluded from. It’s important to be aware that they might want a piece of the pie when/if a family member passes.
Often when a loved one is nearing the end of their life, there’s one family member in particular who burdens much of the caretaking. The caregiver might think they’re entitled to a larger share of an estate, or they could simply find themselves in a position to make changes without others knowing or noticing. It’s worth noticing if one family member seems to be calling the shots near the end – this might be a sign that their intentions aren't completely pure. (Sorry to be the bearers of bad news).
It’s not uncommon for an aging person to set aside portions of their estate for a child or grandchild in certain pursuits – like school fees, a down payment on a house, or to help out with debt. Gifts like this become particularly problematic if they’re not outlined clearly in an estate or documented in a Will.
Relationships between beneficiaries can become strained if uneven shares like this come to light after someone’s passing. Knowing that a certain family member is in such a position could be a sign that family members might fight over estate division when the day comes.
Dealing with family fights over an estate isn't a lost cause. The best way to keep the peace is by appointing an independent Executor and Trustee of the Will. This person, unconnected to the family, can act as a fair referee and offer impartial guidance during disagreements.
The most vital part of this process, though, is to maintain honest and open communication with all family members – no matter how close or estranged they might be. Even though talking about death and Wills might feel awkward (trust us, we get it), it's crucial to be straight up and transparent during these conversations to dodge unnecessary conflict. If you spot any of these above-mentioned warning signs in your family, it's crucial to have these talks as soon as possible.
If you haven’t yet written your legal Will, you can start (and complete) yours today with Willed in just 15 minutes. This is a great foundation for ensuring your assets are divided according to your wishes when you pass.