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Why siblings go to war over a parent’s estate

On Behalf of | Apr 30, 2021 | Estate Planning |

If conflict is going to emerge within a family, then it’s generally either going to happen around a death. Money disputes have a way of bringing out the worst in people, and siblings aren’t immune from this problem when their parents die. 

Siblings are apt to contest their parents’ wills on some grounds more than others. Here’s why siblings often end up at odds over a parent’s will:

Someone is disinherited

While all parents should love their children equally, some play favorites. One of the primary reasons siblings become embroiled in an estate dispute is that their parents unexpectedly cut one of their children (or more) out of their will.

This is particularly true when the parents don’t leave a clear justification for their decision. That can make it seem like the parent simply made a mistake in their will or somehow forgot to include an heir. A sibling may even argue that the parent was lacking the requisite mental capacity to draft their will at the time.

Undue influence might be an issue

Another concern that often results in siblings pursuing heated probate battles is suspected “undue influence” on the part of one sibling during their parents’ final years. One sibling may allege that another sibling capitalized on their parent’s mental or physical vulnerabilities to coerce their mom or dad to modify their will to favor them the most. 

This can happen when a will seems lopsided or appears to favor one sibling over the others — or the will simply doesn’t match up with the expectations each sibling had.

There’s a question about the executor

It’s not uncommon for parents to choose one of their adult children as the executor of their estate – but that can lead to problems with the other adult children. They may feel like the sibling chosen to be the executor is engaging in “self-dealing,” rather than adhering to the obligations of their role.

When disputes arise during the estate administration process, you shouldn’t try to handle the situation on your own. Working with an experienced attorney is the best way to protect your interests.