Some siblings play nice throughout most of their lives. Any cracks in their relationship often are swiftly filled in with spackle. No evidence of animosity, just a seemingly smooth-going relationship. Sometimes, though, detente lasts only until the death of a parent whose estate each sibling claims a stake.
This situation may trigger an outburst based on pent-up anger, jealousy and frustration over alleged favoritism or even greed. Such a scenario represents an example in which estate litigation is the likely path to take.
Left out of will, breach of fiduciary duty
Here are some common issues that likely lead to estate litigation:
- Arguments over the division of assets: The favoritism flag waves here when an heir discovers that the testator left him or her out of the will. If that person has legitimate claims to specific assets, then litigation may be the only way to resolve it.
- Evidence of undue influence: Is the sibling living with a parent actually taking care of her or abusing her through intimidation, fear and pressure? This represents a potential sign that the sibling has influenced your mother regarding the contents of the will.
- An executor’s breach of fiduciary duty: The executor must be honest in settling the estate and dealing with its assets, always ensuring that the estate’s interests take priority. However, if an executor takes money and neglects duties, litigation is nearly inevitable.
- Testator’s lack of mental capacity: If the testator – the person who creates the will – does not comprehend the details within the document that he or she signed, litigation may be the only solution. Perhaps the testator exhibited signs of dementia or mental illness.
- Creditors seeking money: Perhaps the estate owes money to companies or people. In these situations, they may take legal action if an executor failed to pay the creditors.
These are legitimate reasons for estate litigation. If it comes to this, one knows that certain discrepancies arose.
Resolving the legal issues
Disagreements are not uncommon when settling an estate. Other issues may surface, too, that necessitate pursuing litigation. In the end, the legal aspects can be overcome, but the animosity may remain for a long, long time.