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Stepchildren may get a smaller inheritance

When parents have both biological children and stepchildren, they may claim that they have the same close relationship with all of their kids. However, the data from estate divisions tells a different story.

Specifically, reports have found that the odds of parents breaking up the estate in an unequal manner is roughly 30% higher if they got divorced and remarried, giving them a blended family. The implication, of course, is that the parent may give more to their biological children than they give to their stepchildren.

Undue influence or honest assistance?

Many inheritance disputes arise when one heir thinks that another used undue influence to convince a parent or other family member to change their estate plan.

Experts note that a position of power is often involved. For instance, the heir is taking care of an elderly individual with mental or physical ailments. This may mean that the elderly person thinks they have to go along with whatever the heir suggests.

Neighbors may not know where the property lines are

The whole idea of getting into a property line dispute with your neighbor may seem a bit preposterous to you. After all, those lines are well defined, right? If they clearly cross the line with any structure — a shed, a fence, a deck, etc. — then they are encroaching on your property. That's not really a point they can contest, in your mind.

In theory, that does make sense. The issue, though, is that a lot of people just have no idea where the actual property lines are. They know where the edges and boundaries lie in a general sense, but it's not precise. You may both think that you "clearly" own the same piece of land.

Seeking guardianship in Washington

One of the sad realities of life is that as people age, their bodies undoubtedly deteriorate. A deterioration in their mental capacity may also accompany that of their physical functions. If this is happening to one that you love, you may be concerned about their ability to take care of both themselves and their personal matters. Many with such concerns come to us here at Riach Gese Jacobs PLLC wondering if there is anything they can do to help ensure that such an aging and ailing individual is taken care of. One way to do so is to seek guardianship.

Washington state allows guardianship to be granted over adults for whom disability has led to their incapacity (in this context, “incapacity” refers to an inability to care for oneself). Disabilities recognized as contributing to incapacity include:

  • A deterioration in physical and mental capabilities
  • Mental illness
  • Developmental disabilities

The value of creating an estate plan before it is too late

When people pass away without an estate plan in Seattle, their family has a two-edged sword to manage. First, they are dealing with the grief and deep emotions of losing someone they loved. Second, they are working through mounds of loose ends to finalize the affairs of their deceased family member. The effort of people to prepare for death by establishing an estate plan long before they anticipate needing one can make a tremendous difference in the pressure and tension their surviving family members may feel later on. 

An estate plan can reduce the need for a person's family members to have to resort to probate to solve disputes. Experts say that even the most efficient probate cases can take upwards of six months to finalize. Family members often lose out on inheriting certain assets because nothing formal was signed by their deceased family member. Another critical reason for people to make an estate plan is to establish caretakers for any dependents. This decision allows them to place their children with people they trust. 

Most children have no clue what is in the estate plan

You have likely heard how most Americans do not have an estate plan and how many have not even written a will. That is a problem and must be addressed. But there's another side of it that needs to get consideration: Even among those who do have an estate plan, most children do not know what it says or what it includes.

What this means is that many parents know they need a plan, but they still feel uncomfortable having a conversation with the kids about it. Maybe they don't want to bring it up because it feels stressful or awkward. Maybe they have always considered financial details to be private information. There are a lot of reasons for this lack of communication, and the reality is that it breeds many potential problems down the line.

What is a property line dispute?

Seattle residents like you share relatively close quarters with one another. There are a large amount of people in a relatively small space and houses tend to be built very close to one another. Unfortunately, this means that some people may run into property line disputes with their neighbors.

The Seattle.gov website answers the question, what is a property line dispute? In essence, they are disagreements between you and your fellow neighbors over where the property line is drawn. This becomes important when you or your neighbors are landscaping, renovating the yard, or building structures in it such as porches or toolsheds.

How can you avoid inheritance disputes?

After the death of a king in ancient Scandinavia, survivors placed all his treasures on a barge and set it on fire. In order to inherit, surviving offspring needed to brave the flames, but it is unclear how many attempted to do so. This is an extreme method of avoiding inheritance disputes that would probably not be practical in 21st-century Seattle. Nevertheless, inheritance disputes among siblings can turn ugly. You should take steps now to prevent the situation among your children from escalating after your death. 

According to Forbes, you can arrange for an auction of all assets after the deaths of both you and your spouse or partner. Similar to the custom of ancient Scandinavia, though less extreme, this step gives your children the opportunity to bid on items of importance during the sale, and once the auction is over, all your children receive an equal share of the profits. 

When should a person consider contesting a will?

Many adults create an estate plan before they pass away. They do this in the hope that their heirs will be able to distribute the assets without any issues. There are some cases in which questions might come up about the validity of the plan, specifically the will.

While they aren't all that common, will challenges do occur. Individuals who think that their loved one's will isn't valid should learn about the options they have. One of the first things to do is to find out if you can file a claim with the court.

Common dispute causes in a neighborhood

Whether you live in a neighborhood in Washington State that is governed by a homeowners association or not, you may have heard some of your neighbors discuss issues with other homeowners that they are unhappy about. You might even have a gripe about a neighbor of your own. While it might be difficult to consider, you may even be doing something unknowingly that offends one of your neighbors.

It can be helpful to be aware of the factors that most commonly contribute to arguments between neighbors. This insight may help you avoid being the problematic neighbor and it may also help you look for solutions if one of your neighbors engages in unacceptable behaviors. As explained by Consumer Reports, landscaping often leads to disagreements between neighbors. This may be due to a tree that blocks one family's view. It may be due to a tree that puts extra stress on a shared fence or that leans too far over a neighbor's roof. Some plants or trees drop leaves, fruits or other substances that cause an unsightly mess and undue work for the non-owning neighbor. Noise from kids, pets or hobbies can also be a source of strife between people who live near each other.

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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
Fax: 425-775-0406
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