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Estate issues and children who haven't stayed in touch

After a parent passes away, it can be hard for adult children to work together and get everything figured out. It's a complicated process. Like all things involving money, it can lead to heated disputes. There are many potential problems that can arise.

The odds of a serious issue grow even higher when the children have not kept in touch at all. Imagine that you moved out at 18 and went to college. You still talked to your parents, but that was the last time you really spoke to a younger sibling. You rarely came home for breaks. They went to college the next year. You both started families and even lived in different states or countries. You got information second-hand, through your parents, but you didn't talk to each other.

Fast forward 20 years. Your parents pass away. Suddenly, the two of you find yourselves in the same room, expected to sort through some serious estate issues and even disputes, even though you basically feel like strangers.

How common is it?

Some of these statistics are hard even for experts to pin down precisely, but they do estimate that around 5% of Americans find themselves totally cut off from a sibling. They're estranged. They do not speak and have no contact. Often, this is by choice after a falling out. An argument decades ago caused wounds that have never healed, and people have simply never mended those fences. After a while, they just accept it.

In one study, which talked to people from age 18 to age 65, a mere 26% claimed their relationships with their siblings were "highly supportive." Another 19% said that they still had relationships, but they felt apathetic about it. They may not have been estranged, but they also did not really care. Still 16% said that, though the relationship remained, it had turned into a hostile relationship.

How may it impact the proceedings?

The type of relationship that people have can drastically impact the proceedings. Two siblings who stayed in touch and on good terms may work together to overcome any challenges in a way that benefits them both. Meanwhile, two siblings who have not spoken in 20 years may simply do what is best for them. Siblings in an actively hostile relationship may work against one another, seeking to hurt the other person out of spite, even if it is not in their best interests to do so.

While sibling dynamics are not the only thing that impacts these proceedings, you can see that they may play a massive role. If you find yourself in this position, make sure you know what legal steps to take.

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