Avoiding the Top Reasons for Disputed Estates

Unfortunately, estate planning can be a challenge. Even when there are few assets to divide, it is possible for survivors to dispute the provisions you leave behind and turn an inheritance into a frustrating legal struggle. Sentimental personal property is particularly prone to dispute, but your survivors may also debate who gets custody of your minor children or even your pets. Planning around potential disputes is important, but it can be challenging if you don’t know what might be disputed. Here are some of the most common disputes, and how you can prevent them.

Failure of Intentionality

If your estate documents aren’t properly coordinated and in agreement, a survivor may argue that they were overlooked on accident, and they should have been left some possession or asset they believe was meant for them. It is critical to keep your estate plans updated with the current tax laws and family changes, such as divorces, deaths, adoptions, or births. Poor communication may cause these disputes, and while you cannot control what your family says to each other, you can leave exceedingly clear directions for the division of your estate.

Perceived Inequity

Even if you have included every family member in your estate plans, there still may be those who perceive themselves as shortchanged by your stated intentions. This isn’t uncommon when one child, grandchild, or family member shoulders most of the burden when it comes to caring for an elderly relative, and then learns that they were not left a greater share of the estate for their hard work and sacrifices. You can help head off these issue by discussing your estate plans with your family and explaining why you have chosen to make the plans you have. By removing the element of surprise from your estate plan, you can help your loved ones be aware of what to expect, and answer their questions.

Wrongful Acts During or After the Decedent’s Lifetime

Another common, and very unfortunate, cause for dispute is the discovery of financial abuse. When an older person suffers financial mistreatment during their lifetime, or their estate is mishandled by the executor or trustee, the estate plan can become corrupted. An example would be a care aide that influences an elderly patient to include them in their estate plan, or to give them financial power of attorney.

The damage may not be discovered until after the estate owner passes away, and the survivors will need to dispute the estate plan to get back what had been intended for them. While it is difficult to foresee these circumstances, you can still take steps to protect yourself. While you are still in good health, sit down with an estate planning attorney and draw up a full end-of-life plan, including your medical care wishes, who will have medical and financial power of attorney, and how your estate is to be handled after your death.

Preventing Disputes While Planning Your Estate

Obviously, you cannot plan for every contingency and reaction. Even the most air-tight and clear wills or estate plans can be disputed. All you can do is provide clear, legally sound instructions so that a court can help uphold your wishes in the event of a dispute.

Taking the time to properly plan your estate with an experienced family law attorney is another step that you can take to avoid unpleasant surprises. While many people choose DIY estate planning kits or even neglect to make these plans, your lawyer can offer valuable insight and help you see that every detail is handled when it comes to your plans.

Finally, frequent communication with your loved ones can help prevent issues. Take the time to discuss your plans and explain why you’ve made the choices you’ve made with them, while you’re still in a good position to do so. Review what you are expecting from the relatives or friends you have named to positions of power, such as those with power of attorney or executor, to ensure they are aware of your wishes and their duties.

Planning for the end of your life can be an uncomfortable experience, but our experienced Tulsa family law attorneys are here to make the process simpler and easier for you. At Bundren Law Firm P.C., we are ready to address your estate planning concerns and help you develop a set of plans that fit your needs perfectly.

Schedule a consultation to begin. Contact our office by calling (918) 992-3300.

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