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Parental favoritism is real

Parents often say that they don't have a favorite child. Researchers say that's not true.

A Cornell University study talked to 275 different mothers, asking them if they felt closer to one child than the others. Every mother in the study had at least two kids. These children were now adults -- there were 671 of them in all. The vast majority of the mothers -- 70% said that they felt closest to one of the children.

Dementia symptoms that could impact an estate plan

When an elderly loved one creates an estate plan while suffering from dementia, it can cause a lot of potential issues for family members. How accurate is that plan? Does it really reflect what they wanted? If there are things that heirs do not expect -- like getting cut out of the will -- is that because the person had dementia?

It could be, and it can lead to estate disputes. Let's take a look at some of the symptoms that may impact an estate plan:

Have a bad neighbor? These tips can help

Unfortunately, you cannot pick your neighbors. You may get a bad neighbor who constantly looks for ways to aggravate you or who actually infringes on your rights. Maybe they use your property without permission, build structures too close to the property line or start a dispute about where that line even is.

What can you do? This is tough because it's hard to get away from it. It's not as if you can go home and have a break. You live around it all the time. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Try to meet them. Talk to them. See if you can become friends. They may not realize that what they're doing is negatively impacting you, or they may at least stop once they get to know you.
  • Document everything. Write it down, along with dates and names. Take pictures of anything that is a violation. Get it on record so that it's not just your word against theirs.
  • Talk to your other neighbors. Are you the only one who is experiencing this? How long has it been going on? Who else has noticed?
  • Try to talk to the neighbor you have an issue with. Sometimes, if you simply ask them to stop doing something -- going onto your yard without permission, for instance -- you can stop it with little conflict.

Financial exploitation is common with the elderly

Do you worry that someone used undue influence to exploit your elderly loved one and got them to change their will? Undue influence is often just a type of manipulation. The person convinces the elderly person that they want to change their will and pressures them into doing so.

Maybe you thought that all of the money would go to you, as a direct heir, and to your sibling. Instead, when the will was read, you found out that your parent left a third of the money to a caretaker. While you always liked the caretaker, and they were helpful while your parent was still alive, you now think that they used that position of power to manipulate your parent for their own gain.

Why would someone contest the terms of a will?

An estate plan outlines your loved one's wishes for what will happen with their assets when they pass away. It can also cover other areas, such as who will make decisions for them if they are unable to and what types of medical care they are willing to undergo toward the end of their life. There are times when these plans aren't clear or when there is reason to believe that they don't accurately reflect the person's wishes.

When there is a question about the validity of these documents, you will have to turn to the court to determine how to proceed. Probate litigation is the area of law that enables people to contest wills and other estate planning points, but this can only be done by a person who meets certain legal requirements and when there is a valid reason to contest it.

A dispute could arise over an asset's worth

Many estate disputes happen when people want the same asset. Maybe one child felt like their parents promised them the family home, but then it went to someone else in the will. Children also fight over far more minor assets, especially when they have sentimental value.

Now, one way to get around this is just to sell all of the assets and split up the money. It may be impossible to divide the asset itself, but everyone can divide the cash that it brings in.

Greed may lead to estate issues

People will often do things that seem fully out of character in the name of money. Greed is a strong motivator. You may be surprised by what you find.

For instance, maybe your parents passed away and left a sibling as the estate executor. When they give you a copy of the will, it gives nearly everything to them and nothing to you. Immediately, you suspect that they create a fraudulent will or used undue influence to get your parents to change the will. You can't imagine your parents wanted things to be this unfair.

Is your neighbor using your property without permission?

In some cases, your neighbor may have legal permission to use your property. This is known as an easement.

It's important to note that this permission typically just extends to one type of use. For instance, maybe it's a right-of-way easement because the only way from the street to your neighbor's property is through your driveway. They have legal permission to drive down the driveway, but that doesn't mean they can do anything else on your property. They can merely drive through. Though this is one of the most common types of easements, there are others.

You may not get that inheritance you expect

Do you think you're going to get an inheritance from your parents when they pass away? If so, you are in the majority. Studies have found that about 68% of young people think that they will get one -- often containing money and physical assets, like a house -- at some point in their lives.

Unfortunately, you may not get it. The same studies have found that just 40% of their parents say they actually plan to leave anything to their children. There is clearly a large discrepancy here. While there is bound to be some overlap -- children who do not think they'll get anything and parents who do not plan to leave anything -- there are obviously a lot of young people who expect an inheritance and will feel shocked when they do not get one.

An inheritance dispute can cause lasting damage to a family

When an inheritance dispute occurs, it's important for those involved to know what rights they have, what steps to take and how to resolve things as quickly and smoothly as possible. They must be aware of the fact that it can cause lasting damage to the relationships in the family, and they need to work to limit that damage.

Most parents think this could never happen to their children. Meanwhile, financial experts note that it happens quite frequently.

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

Phone: 425-329-7857
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