Every family has its problems. Whether there is one sibling who seems like the black sheep or there are issues with stepparents, no family is perfect. You may know this fact firsthand from the many spats you have endured with various family members throughout the years, and now that a loved one has passed and you face the duty of being an executor, you may worry about even more serious disputes.
Unfortunately, conflict during the probate process is not unusual. In some cases, challenges to wills may be warranted when someone unjustly took advantage of a vulnerable person. However, the possibility also exists that some people may make claims simply due to misunderstandings or attempts to obtain assets to which they are not entitled. Still, as executor, you will have to handle any claims made against the estate.
Family issues are among the most common reasons that estate values diminish during probate. The longer probate takes, the fewer funds are available to bequeath to beneficiaries. Some common issues that lead to family disputes include the following:
- Confusion over what a beneficiary should obtain
- Unrealistic expectations, e.g. expecting more money than is actually bequeathed
- Pre-existing tensions among family members
- Issues with blended families, for example mistrust among children and a deceased parent's new, younger spouse
Of course, some family members who have a flair for the dramatic may find other reasons to create conflict during the probate proceedings. While unfortunate, it can still take place and cause probate to move forward at a snail's pace.
If your family member clued you in to the estate plan before his or her death, you may know that steps were taken in hopes of preventing conflicts from coming up. For instance, maybe your loved one carried out any of the follow actions:
- Updating plans periodically to prevent confusion
- Discussing the plan with family members
- Distributing assets fairly, though not necessarily equally
- Creating trusts to distribute assets through specific terms
These steps are often helpful in lessening the likelihood of unnecessary disputes. Of course, you know your family has a tendency to tug at any loose end, so you may anticipate conflict despite any safeguards implemented. As a result, you may want to discuss your options for dealing with probate disputes with a knowledgeable attorney and determine what roles you will need to tackle during this time.