Family Feud! When Beneficiaries Fight Over an Estate

  • Robert S. Thomas,
  •   Estate Planning, Probate
  •   Comments Off on Family Feud! When Beneficiaries Fight Over an Estate


Families are torn apart over inheritance money, courtroom battles, lies, manipulation, and dirty tricks! These are things we’ve all seen on television dramas. But it doesn’t happen in real life, does it? The answer is yes; families often fight over an estate. However, before you drop everything and begin regularly observing probate hearings, I’ll point out that real life estate disputes are typically less contrived and contain fewer major plot twists. Nevertheless, these battles can end up taking years, dividing loved ones, and draining estates.

Why Do Estate Disputes Occur?

It is important to recognize some reasons that family feuds erupt over estates:

  • Exploitation or manipulation. There is often a legitimate concern that someone (such as a caretaker or new spouse) has illicitly influenced the decedent into revoking a long-standing will and executed one that disproportionately benefits that person.
  • Grief. Clearly, everyone is grieving in their own way at the death of a loved one. This grief sometimes manifests itself in unhealthy ways, and instead of taking steps to cope with loss, people find probate courts an attractive venue to air grievances against other family members.
  • Greed. This is self-explanatory. Making your intentions clear, preparing your will to withstand an attack with a skilled attorney, and choosing an executor whom you unconditionally trust can go a long way toward ensuring that greed does not stand in the way of your wishes.
  • Poor communication between the decedent and beneficiaries. I believe that many family disputes are entirely avoidable if there is a real effort for a decedent to communicate with beneficiaries. This means communicating your wishes and naming an executor and taking steps to explain your reasons for these decisions. This also means listening to what your heirs want and expect. While this sort of communication will be difficult, it will establish group expectations and reduce the chance that someone is blindsided.
  • Poor estate planning. Sometimes a will covers all the major assets but then leaves omissions to items that may have little monetary value, but enormous sentimental value. This means heirlooms; things passed down through generations or items that are attached to meaningful experiences. Ambiguity in a will can create massive, unforeseen rifts. Something as simple as canvas paintings you made when you took art classes at a community college, or an old baseball glove, can lead to a full-blown battle between siblings.

Let me help you plan your estate and minimize the factors that generally cause family feuds. My decades of legal experience in this field have taught me to anticipate exactly how people may attempt to attack your will, and how to prepare a plan that will withstand those attacks. My team and I will listen to your wishes and conduct a comprehensive examination of your estate so that we can serve you and your family. Call the Law Offices of Robert S. Thomas at 847-392-5893 for a consultation. Or you can visit our website to set up a consultation.

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