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Families fight in courts over wills

In years past, wills were rarely contested by family members, as this was seen as a way of dishonoring the decedent. However, more siblings and other relatives are suing in California courts over wills that they believe do not provide them with their fair share of the inheritance.

According to one member of the American Bar Association, disputes regarding wills are on the rise. Many of these cases are based on sibling rivalry or a long-standing feud between relatives. When more money is involved, it is more likely that a family member will choose to litigate. In addition to arguments over wills, other lawyers across the country are seeing an increase in cases involving the litigation of trusts and parent health care. One reason for this greater number of cases is because more baby boomers are dying now, and many have accumulated significant wealth during their lifetimes.

It has been noted that less traditional living arrangements may mean that older individuals are more susceptible to fraud and undue influence. Contention may arise when blended families come together all for a piece of the estate. One way to prevent issues from arising after a parent's death is not to tie children together to the same piece of real property or the same business interest. Making decisions when one is in good health can help avoid arguments that the testator lacked the requisite capacity to complete estate planning documents. Mediation may help relatives come to an amicable agreement without having to incur the time and cost of litigation.

Individuals who would like to determine how to distribute their assets at the end of their life may wish to discuss these preferences with an estate planning lawyer. The attorney can assist in the preparation of a will and other documents, such as a financial power of attorney, that may be appropriate.

Source: Insurance News, "Inheritance conflicts pit relatives against one another", Tim Grant, July 04, 2014

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