Losing a parent can be upsetting for children of any age. Even if you only saw your parent on major holidays or had a complicated relationship, a parental loss can take a profound toll in many ways.

This toll can be especially notable when it comes to probate and the process of administering an estate. During this process, there is the potential for complicated legal issues and stressful, emotional problems to arise, especially if certain elements are in place.

    1. Lack of planning – A parent who does not have a will or estate plan can be setting the stage for contentious probate. Without guidance from the decedent, decisions regarding the estate must be made by an appointed representative and per state intestacy laws. These decisions may not align with what a child knows or suspects a parent wanted, but there can be little recourse without a plan.
    2. Complex assets – A modest estate with few assets can be straightforward in terms of distribution. However, if there are businesses, multiple real estate properties, intellectual property rights and other similar assets, valuation and distribution can be far more complicated.
    3. Complicated family relationships – Families who already have strained connections, estrangements or an inability to come together to make difficult decisions often find the probate process brings these volatile connections to ahead. Feelings of jealousy, resentment, disappointment and distrust can make legal rifts incredibly challenging to overcome.
    4. An unexpected death – When loved ones have little or no time to prepare for someone’s passing, their grief and shock can cloud judgment and result in impulsive, ill-advised decisions. Those who have talked to their parent about his or her wishes can find it a little easier to navigate probate.
    5. Concerns about a parent’s mental health before death – If a parent experienced dementia or memory loss and children worry he or she was taken advantage of or abused financially before passing, they could contest a will

If you anticipate one or more of these factors affecting the probate process for your parent’s estate – or if you are a parent and want to make things easier on your family – know that you can work through the legal challenges with an attorney. With guidance, you can anticipate challenges and respond accordingly.