Fighting Over an Estate? Tips to Help Resolve Your Differences

Even if there’s a will in place, many families still end up fighting over an estate after their loved ones die.

Although many people believe the only way to resolve a dispute over an estate is to turn to probate court, there are several other things you can do before resorting to probate:

Review the Will – Again

As unlikely as it may sound, some estate battles are resolved simply by re-reading the will, since it’s easy to miss key points when you’re feeling intense emotions. Also, make sure that you are indeed reading the most recent – and valid – will. Many people change their wills during their lives and forget to revoke the old ones.

It's official! My dad and I signed the paperwork and I am going to have a house next week! My favorite bit was how I was constantly referred to as Caitlin Childs, an unmarried woman....in the paperwork. I feel like I should have a card that says that now or something.

Consider Other Evidence

If a key aspect of the deceased person’s estate isn’t addressed in the will, consider statements that the person may have made prior to their death, such as comments made about funeral plans, to help determine what their wishes might actually have been.

Study State Inheritance Laws

Even if a person dies without a will, his or her state’s inheritance laws may prevent some family members from inheriting part of the estate. If a will doesn’t mention certain relatives, they may not have a legally protected right to inherit from the deceased, unless the omission was not intentional.

Weigh the Alternatives

Fighting over an estate in probate court can take a long time, so you might consider mediation or arbitration as a method of settling disagreements. Mediation will attempt to find common ground and come to a mutually agreed upon solution between the parties, but it isn’t legally binding. Arbitration is similar to the court process but less formal, and the arbitrator’s decision may be final.

Seek Legal Help

If you are unable to come to an agreement over an estate on your own, contact an estate planning and probate lawyer at O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Foss online, or call 701-235-8000 or 877-235-8002 (toll-free) and discuss your legal options today.

 

Photo courtesy of Flikr/Caitlin Childs

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