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Disputes over will raised by disinherited kids

People in Washington State who get remarried may have been told that having very clear estate plans is important yet some still choose to avoid making these plans. Even in the happiest of blended families, troubles can brew between the biological children of a deceased person and the surviving spouse. One current example of this can be seen in the case of a country music legend who died in the summer of 2018.

As explained by Taste of Country, three adult children of the late Glen Campbell are today asserting that the will his widow has brought forth is invalid. The singer had a total of eight children from his four marriages and it is the three children from his second wife who have raised the dispute and indicated their wish to contest the will. The deceased singer was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease many years before his death and the three siblings have said that the singer would have been incompetent to legally sign the will provided by the man's widow. It is not known when that will was dated.

Do you believe will changes were a result of undue influence?

Losing a loved one is never easy. However, certain situations can make it even more emotionally difficult to deal with such a loss. Shocking changes to a last will or an estate plan are a perfect example of complicating factors that can make grief even harder to process.

As a family member, beneficiary or heir, you likely had some level of understanding of what to expect in the last will or estate plan. However, after your loved one died, you learned that the last will or estate plan changed dramatically in the last months of their life. It is common to wonder if undue influence played a role in the changes, especially if a caretaker or new spouse benefited from those changes.

A queen without a will

Most people in Washington State are likely aware that the woman commonly referred to as "The Queen of Soul," Aretha Franklin, died last month. It is likely a common thought that anyone of her status and wealth would have had a solid estate plan in place. It has, however, come to light as reported by The Washington Post that the famous singer and entertainer did not, in fact, have any will, trust or other estate planning document in place at the time of her death.

It has been reported that the woman was advised to establish a trust or a will but she actively chose against doing so. Under the laws of her state, her assets would theoretically be split in four equal shares between her surviving sons. However, what will actually happen remains unknown today. Several things could play into the ultimate direction of her estate.

Tips for selecting a guardian for your children

One of the last things that a parent in Washington State wants to imagine is not being there to raise their children. While statistically, most parents will live to see their kids graduate high school and go into their adulthood, there are plenty of situations in which this does not happen. Whether due to an accident or an illness, some of the time parents will die while their children are still young. If both parents die prematurely, it is then important that they had previously outlined who would raise their children on their behalf.

Parenting magazine recommends that people stop before rushing into the all-too-common popularity content pick that becomes very political very fast. Arguments among grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings can start before one knows it. Instead, the best first step in selecting a guardian is to make a detailed list of what qualities parents want from a guardian. This should be done picturing their children at different stages of development to evaluate a range of situations.

What is and is not included in probate

Many people in Washington State often find the process of probate confusing. This is true of people who are trying to make their own estate plans as well as it is of people who may be beneficiaries of another person's estate. Probate is a legal process but it is important to know that not every assets must pass through this process. Knowing the scope of probate can help people make decisions that are right for their estates and beneficiaries.

As explained by Fidelity Investments, if you establish a trust, the assets in your trust will not need to go through probate after you die. However, that does not mean that your entire estate will bypass probate because it is very possible that not all of your assets will be included in your trust. This is why many people develop both wills and trusts.

Most wealthy families lose that wealth almost immediately

For your entire life, you have worked very hard to build up your estate for your children. You live a comfortable life. You buy them anything they want. You take nice vacations. But you also put aside plenty of money to ensure that they can sustain this lifestyle. You never want them to have to worry about money. The same goes for your grandchildren and their children.

That's a grand plan. Unfortunately, it is not likely to work. Studies have found that most wealthy families (70 percent) see their riches disappear by the time they get to the second generation.

Property line disputes: finding the peace

Most Seattle residents worry little over issues such as property disputes, but to some, they are an incredible nuisance. What could result in an otherwise reasonable conversation can easily escalate into misunderstandings and, worse, arguments over boundaries. How common is it for a neighbor to cross the line, and what do most residents do to resolve the problems? 

Not only is a dispute over one's land a headache; the issue can become worse over time if unaddressed. Homeowner resource HouseLogic even goes as far as to warn readers that unresolved property disputes can present obstacles when it comes to future prospects of selling a home. It may seem apparent, but a first good rule of thumb for any neighbor involves knowledge of one's own property. As HouseLogic shares, settlement papers generally include this information. Following, communication is never a bad idea, as HouseLogic goes on to advise homeowners that writing letters and holding meetings are other ways to work out boundary-related issues.

Preplan to keep the family peace

Nobody in Washington State wants to think that their adult children, grandchildren or other relatives could someday be at each other's throats over money. Yet, this can and does happen more often that most people would want to really know. The sadness that can accompany these fights represents the loss of many memories and hopes for the future but may be able to be avoided with the proper preplanning.

As explained by AARP, perhaps one of the most common triggers to disputes over a parent's or other relative's estate is an inequitable distribution of assets. In a family with two adult children, when parents leave the lion's share of an estate to the child who declined the chance to go to college and has worked only minimum wage jobs, the sibling that has gone on to become financially successful feels virtually punished for having done well.

Learning about neighbors before moving in

Many people in Washington State know that a person can find their dream home in their dream neighborhood but that does not guarantee they will find their dream neighbors. To some extent, there may be no way for a homeowner to completely prevent ending up next to or near a neighbor they have challenges getting along with. That said, there are some things they can do to potentially reduce the chances of this happening.

Realtor.com suggests that while in the process of looking at a home, a person should take advantage of the opportunity to have a casual conversation with a neighbor. This may be easier in nice weather when people are more likely to be outside and they can be approached naturally. Potential buyers should ask other homeowners about their experiences living in the area and even about how neighbors get along or what type of social events they may engage in together. This gives a sense of the level of community and potentially the level of willingness to work together.

Many estate disputes are about protecting memories, not assets

You imagine that estate disputes tend to center around high-value assets. Who gets Dad's life insurance payout? How should the children split up Mom's retirement savings? What do they do with the family home, which is worth $1 million in the current market?

Many estate disputes do center around issues just like these. People want to protect the assets that they feel rightly belong to them. They do not want an unfair portion. It's not always greed, necessarily, but it centers on money and people's desire to get what they want -- even if it strains family relationships.

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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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