When family members have a conflict surrounding distribution of a relative’s estate, everyone suffers. These kinds of conflicts cause stress, anxiety, and uncertainty at a time in people’s lives when they are already grieving. If you are dealing with an estate-related conflict, you can take a few steps to resolve the dispute.
Seek Professional Help
Talk to a lawyer about the dispute, if you haven’t done so already. Often you can schedule an initial meeting to discuss what is happening and the possible services and solutions the lawyer could offer. A local lawyer may come up with creative tactics to appease family members, or you may need help going to court instead.
Many estate distribution conflicts can be resolved through informal methods, such as having a family meeting, talking to those involved, or even mediation. Lack of communication is one of the top reasons that families end up in conflict.
Maybe a deceased relative left a prized possession to two family members and they are having trouble sharing because they never talk. Or one sibling might have removed valuable items from the deceased father’s house before the other siblings got a chance to sift through them. Talking out these problems is often a better solution than going straight to court.
Mediation might be an option for some families. In this process, a neutral mediator meets with people on both sides of the conflict throughout the course of a day. The parties to the conflict all have to show up on the same day at the same place and talk about the issues, which can often spur resolution. The mediator offers suggestions, teases out the bad facts, and helps negotiate solutions.
Your last resort for solving a conflict could be probate court. A judge in the county where the deceased person passed away (or sometimes where the property is located) can decide disputes over estate distribution. However, going to court for a family conflict can cost everyone a lot of money and time. Cases can drag on for months or years, depending on how busy the judge is. In the end, there may be little reward for the family members who have to pay legal bills and face the possibility that they will lose the legal battle. But if you do need to go to probate court, first contact an experienced lawyer who can represent you.
Planning your estate? Look to Janet Brewer, Esq. for thorough and thoughtful estate planning advice. Janet’s more than 20 years of legal experience will give you confidence and peace of mind. To schedule a “Get Acquainted” meeting, visit Janet's website or call her office at (650) 469-8206.