Even when an estate plan is carefully crafted and a will is well-made, there are numerous ways that various parties can make the settlement of an estate difficult and complicated. If you are approaching an estate settlement and want to avoid as much conflict as possible, or if you are already embroiled in a contentious settlement, it is wise to consider ways that you can help simplify matters and de-escalate tensions.
For as long as people have been leaving their property to heirs, there has been conflict. However, many of the sources of conflict are individuals other than the immediate heirs themselves — spouses, children of direct heirs, extended family members. When people other than the direct heirs of a decedent start intruding into the process, it is extremely likely that they will make things more complicated and stressful, rather than less so. As a general rule, it is always wise to insist that only the immediate heirs of the decedent be involved in property division and settling an estate.
Of course, even if you're able to keep the matter among the immediate heirs only, there are still ways that things can get complicated. One of the most common ways that tensions can arise is when one person or another, in the anticipation of an estate settlement, preemptively takes something from an estate. It's usually something relatively small, a piece of jewelry or some other item that is easy to carry. This sort of thing it can set off a chain reaction of accusations and retaliation from other immediate heirs who feel that the person who took the item is cheating.
While there are many more things that may arise when settling an estate, if you can keep the matter among the immediate heirs only and agree that no one will take property from the estate before it has been properly distributed, you will avoid the lion's share of conflicts. If you find that you need additional assistance facilitating a smooth settlement, an experienced attorney can help you walk through the process fairly.