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How to Minimize Inheritance Fights Between Relatives

By George Khoury, Esq. on April 26, 2017 1:57 PM

When there's a death in the family, the last thing anyone wants is a big fight over the deceased's property and assets. Unfortunately, when it comes to money and inheritances, relatives can quickly turn to bitter enemies.

However, there are few things a person can do to potentially help stop relatives from spending the funeral and grieving period fighting over who gets what. Here are three tips on how to minimize inheritance fights between relatives.

1. Have a Valid Will Prepared and Regularly Updated

If this just sounds like common sense to you, then you're right. Having a will prepared is not only a good way to take stock of what you have, it's a responsible thing to do for yourself and your loved ones. If you prepare a clear document that explains what you want to happen with your property and assets, then there will be less reason for relatives to fight.

Although it is just common sense to do so, many people avoid preparing a will their entire life and assume their spouse or children will just inherit everything without event. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case, particularly when there have been multiple spouses and many children and grandchildren.

2. Don't Cut Anyone Out, List to Dismiss

Frequently, challenges to inheritances come from relatives who were cut out, either intentionally or accidentally. Usually, a rightful heir who was accidentally left off the will can successfully challenge an inheritance. However, individuals intentionally left out will generally have a much more difficult time challenging an inheritance.

While it may seem counterintuitive, listing the names of persons an individual specifically wants to exclude from inheriting in their will can make it more difficult for those listed persons to challenge an inheritance by foreclosing the argument of being left out accidentally.

3. Prepare at Least a Couple Relatives for the Unknown

Don't shock relatives and close family with a surprise revelation in your will. If possible, tell a few relatives about what is contained in your will. This will prevent others from coming forward to claim the will is inaccurate, or even producing fraudulent documents purporting to be the real will.

If there is a secret child, former spouse, secret lover, or other person you wish to leave property to, if a few relatives (or at least your executor) know about who these people are, it can help prevent disputes from arising due to the surprise. Just letting a lawyer know may be good enough for a court, but it might not help when it comes to fights between relatives.

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