Few things in life are perfect, including wills that your parents may have created before they pass away. They may have left their wishes incomplete, or your siblings in California may not be happy with how assets will be distributed. Whatever the reason, sometimes heirs aren’t satisfied with their inherited portion and decide to contest the will. How do you, as an executor, go about probate litigation?
Probate litigation is emotional
In many instances, probate litigation is not about how much money is left to everyone. For those intending to challenge a will, the distribution of assets is emotional, particularly if one or more heirs are surprised by the will’s contents or cannot agree on handling the inherited property.
Parents have the final say in how they want to divide their assets among their children and grandchildren. In addition to a will, sometimes a letter of instruction is also part of the estate plan. While some parents decide to split their assets evenly among their children, others specify where certain assets should go. Remember that not all assets are part of a will, bank and investment accounts, trusts, and retirement accounts have designated beneficiaries who receive those assets upon the owner’s death.
How to avoid inheritance disputes
The best way to avoid inheritance disputes among siblings and other closely related heirs is through careful estate planning. First, make sure your parents have a valid will because if they die without one, their assets will have to go through the probate process, which can become complicated and lengthy. If you are the executor of your parents’ wills, ask them to make their wishes known to you and your siblings so that there are no surprises when the time comes.
Wills and other estate planning documents should also have periodic reviews as life circumstances and wishes about distribution can change. Whenever a change occurs, letting the other heirs know about the changes can be vital to a smooth distribution of assets. The more communication you have before you must formally act as executor, the easier the task will be.