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.
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.
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.
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.
People in Washington State who create a will should be able to expect that its terms will be followed as identified. However, this may not always be as simple as one might wish it to be. Despite the intentions of the person who created the will, the language used in the final document might leave some areas of it open to interpretation. This may then contribute to potential heirs disputing the will.
Many people in Washington State face the challenge of how to provide the best help to and care for an aging parent or other relative. One of the biggest problems encountered by families is how and when to have the conversation about ensuring adult children have the authority to help make decisions on the part of their parents. If you are concerned about this, you should know that it can be easier to have a durable power of attorney established while your parent is still in reasonably good health.
One of the potentially more contentious issues involved with the administration of an estate in Seattle is the potential for having to pay estate taxes. You (and other beneficiaries) may understand that if taxes are owed, they should be paid from the estate’s assets. Yet how are you to know if taxes are owed and how they might affect yours (and others’) interests in the estate?
It is recommended that those working their way through the estate planning process in Seattle involve those who will be impacted by their decisions as much as possible. Yet that does not always happen, which is why many who are party to an estate may ultimately be surprised to learn of their interests in it (or lack thereof). It may be easy to assume that those who contest the terms of a will are simply being bitter at not receiving what they wanted. Yet there may indeed be circumstances where one might justifiably question their stake in an inheritance.
If you are one of the many people in Washington State who dreads the thought of your children or other heirs going at each other after you die in the name of money or treasured family heirlooms, you are not alone. This is the last thing most people want to have happen. It is also the last thing most people would want to be directly involved in as one of the heirs. While there may be no foolproof way to prevent this in all situations, there are some steps that can be taken during the estate planning process that might reduce the chances of these conflicts from occurring.
Are you a Seattle resident who is either acting as the executor of a will, or are the beneficiary of one? If so, you have certain responsibilities and rights. However, inheritance disputes can threaten the ease of the probate process. Riach Gese Jacobs, PLLC, is here to help.