Three Common Scenarios That Lead to Estate Disputes

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When a person dies leaving a large estate, it can be a bittersweet time for heirs. On one hand, there is the sadness of losing a loved one. On the other hand, there may be a large windfall that can forever change an heir’s financial picture. For these reasons, it can be an emotionally challenging rollercoaster for the survivors. Sadly, it is a volatile time for families, and in some cases, siblings and other family members turn on each other and otherwise peaceful discussions can deteriorate into chaos, bitterness, and turmoil.

Alabama will and trust contests are often filled with animosity and discord between relatives. Among the many reasons for this, there are three specific situations that lead to these disputes more often than others. If you are building your estate plan and foresee any of these situations being possible, then you should schedule an appointment to review your estate plan with an experienced Alabama estate planning attorney as soon as possible.

Scenario #1: Disinheritance

Perhaps the most straightforward and common scenario that leads to will and trust contests is a pure disinheritance of an heir. When omitting an adult child, spouse, or other presumptive heir, there are careful precautions that must be used in order to make sure the estate will not be forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars defending a challenge. Alabama law permits any person who is “interested in the estate” to bring an action to contest the will. Trusts are handled differently, but there is a similar procedure.

If you are the executor, you could easily spend a large share of the estate just defending the will. Careful planning can minimize these risks, as can open and frank communication with anyone you have chosen to exclude.

Scenario #2: The Late Life Marriage

Another common scenario is when a person remarries later in life. Adult children may be dismayed when a spouse who has only been a member of the family for a few brief years inherits a large share of the estate, leaving children largely without. The easiest way to prevent disputes is to make sure everyone knows your intentions and create legally valid documents long before you pass away.

Scenario #3: The Incompetent Change of Plans

This is becoming an increasingly more common problem. A person with a severe cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and so forth, is generally not legally considered competent to make or revise a will or trust. Keep in mind, however, that mental capacity can fluctuate and be a challenging thing to prove, especially after someone is gone. Disputes often arise when a loved one changes an estate plan after being diagnosed with a mental impairment. Allegations can arise, charging other members of the family with taking advantage of the situation.

Help Before and After

If you need help planning or revising an estate document, such as a will or trust, the lawyers of Five Points Law Group want to help. If a loved one has died, and you foresee a dispute in the near future, we may still be able to help minimize the damage. Call us to schedule a consultation today.

Kristin Waters Sullivan
Kristin Waters Sullivan
As a partner at the Five Points Law Group, Kristin brings her vast experience in Estate Planning and Probate Law to serve her clients’ and their families’ needs.

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