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Lynnwood Law Blog

Do parents have a favorite child?

Ask any parent with multiple children if they have a favorite, and they'll tell you they don't. However, those children often feel like they do.

This is important when considering estate planning, seeing as how childhood feelings and conflicts can come back even for adults when their parents pass away. For instance, a middle child who always felt left out may also feel like the will left more to his or her siblings -- which can be seen as just one more instance of their parents acting unfairly toward them. Could this make an inheritance dispute more likely? Could that child decide to do everything in their power to contest the plan and get every cent they can, or at least to make it harder for their siblings out of spite?

Defending your decision to sell real property from an estate

As the executor or administrator of an estate, you will often have to make decisions that beneficiaries or heirs may find questionable. Depending on the instructions left behind by the deceased, you may have to liquidate assets that certain family members or loved ones of the deceased might have an interest in maintaining.

In some cases, people might challenge your decision to sell an asset, even using that action as grounds to challenge you as the executor. There are several steps that you can take in order to protect yourself from allegations of improper management of the estate related to the sale of real estate.

The difficulty with sentimental items after a death

In a realistic sense, outside of the cash they received, children often don't really need the items their parents leave for them. Their inheritance may include a home full of lamps, beds, tables, chairs and all the rest, but these adult children have their own homes and their own furnishings. It's everything their parents have accumulated over their lives -- but that's often items of little actual value other than the sentimental.

So why do these items often lead to inheritance disputes?

Your neighbor can negatively impact your property value

The unfortunate reality is that you are not the only person who is in control of your property value. If you go to sell your house, you may find that your neighbor has driven that value down.

This is part of the reason for zoning laws. Putting a gas station next to a home could reduce the value of the home, so zones keep things like commercial, residential and industrial buildings spread apart from one another. One problem you may have, though, is that even within a residential zone, you could have a less-than-attractive neighbor that makes it so no one wants to buy your house.

How to recognize the signs of dementia

An elderly person who is doing their estate planning or updating an existing plan needs to have the mental capacity to do so correctly. Unfortunately, for many who suffer from degenerative diseases as they grow older, they may lack this capacity. This can lead to serious errors in an estate plan and may eventually lead to a dispute.

One of the most common issues that people suffer from in this fashion is dementia. It can impact everything from social abilities to cognitive abilities to memory. How do you know if your elderly loved one has the condition or if it is getting worse? Look for these signs:

  • They cannot remember things, even simple things that they should be able to, and it seems to be getting worse.
  • While talking, they often struggle to come up with the right word at the right time.
  • They begin demonstrating inappropriate behavior, perhaps as if they are unsure how to act in a particular social setting.
  • They seem very confused all of the time, which can lead to related issues like depression and anxiety.
  • They start to make mistakes while doing common tasks, such as getting lost while driving home from the grocery store.
  • They forget people's names or look blankly at people that they should know very well, as if perhaps meeting them for the first time.

Will expectations lead to inheritance issues?

Could inheritance disputes be coming as wealth moves to the next generation? One reason that people feel frustrated with an inheritance is when they had expectations that were not met. Current research shows that that situation is playing out for a lot of families.

For instance, in one study, 40% of parents said they would be leaving an inheritance to their children. If that's lower than you thought it would be, you're not alone. The children also thought it would be higher. This study focused on millennials, and it found that a full 70% assumed they would get an inheritance. That's nearly twice the number of people who actually will, meaning there is a lot of room for disappointment.

Boundary dispute? Keep your cool to resolve conflicts

You have lived in your home for many years. You had wonderful neighbors, and everyone respected each other's property. You didn't have a fence then, because you didn't feel that your privacy was being violated.

When your neighbor moved and a new family came, you were shocked by the difference. Their children would play outside and leave toys in your yard. You'd have guests over and be unable to enjoy yourselves, since they'd just run over and interrupt you. You decided that it was time to put up a fence, so that you could get your private space back.

Lot line agreements and mortgage restrictions

You and your neighbor are unsure exactly where your lot line is situated. There is just one fence, and it was there before either of you owned your current homes. You always thought it was your fence from the orientation, but it appears to be too close to your neighbor's garage, indicating that it may be on their land.

In any case, you and your neighbor decide to use a lot line agreement to officially state that the fence is on the property line and that it belongs to you. You have been thinking about upgrading it, so you started by talking to your neighbor to see what you could and could not do.

What if your spouse doesn't name you in their will?

Your spouse passes away, and you discover that they never named you in their will or estate plan. What will happen? How does the court view this omission?

Generally speaking, there are laws in Washington to help ensure that the surviving spouse will be provided for in the estate. After all, if your spouse passed away without a will -- known as "dying intestate" -- then the law would govern what you should get. These same rules can be used if you were omitted from the will, as it is a fundamentally similar situation.

Friction between adult siblings may lead to disputes

Estate disputes often involve adult siblings who do not agree on what they should do with their parents' estate or what their parents would have wanted. Maybe their parents had no estate plan and died unexpectedly, so it's up to them to sort it out, and they can't agree.

This can be a stressful situation, and it often links back to friction between the siblings that already existed. They didn't get along to begin with, and it only gets worse now that their parents are gone and a lot of money and other assets are on the line.

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Riach Gese Jacobs, PLLC
7331 196th Street, SW
P.O. Box 1067
Lynnwood, WA 98046

Phone: 425-329-7857
Phone: 425-776-3191
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