Preventing Trust and Estate Disputes

The death of a loved one should be a time for family members to come together, but instead, estate and trust disputes can cause families to fall apart. Every family’s situation is unique, but certain issues commonly arise to cause these conflicts. It may be uncomfortable to address these issues, but doing so may prevent unnecessary discord and expensive litigation after one’s passing.

Here are some of the most common issues that cause trust and estate disputes:

Subsequent Marriages: Issues can easily arise when the surviving spouse is not the parent of one’s surviving children.  The surviving spouse often receives a decedent’s wealth for the remainder of their life, leaving the decedent’s children to only inherit what remains. Tension builds between children who feel entitled to and want to preserve family wealth and the surviving spouse with their own needs and lifestyle choices. Many problems can be prevented by addressing this tension ahead of time.

Unfulfilled Expectations: Although someone’s estate plan is their personal business that others aren’t entitled to, an estate plan that doesn’t match up with previously expressed intent can leave people feeling disappointed and distrustful.  An heir whose expectations aren’t met may be more likely to try to challenge that document than an heir who knows what to expect.

Sibling Issues: Parents want to believe their children will get along after their death, but this is often a time that difficult deep-seated feelings come to the surface. Provisions in a will requiring children to make mutual decisions often cause more difficulty than unity.  Appointing a neutral decision‑maker in a fiduciary role, not creating joint interests among children, and detailing clear instructions are some ways to prevent issues between siblings.

Preferences and Disinheritance: It may be easy for you to see why your will leaves more to one heir than others or why some heirs are left out, but it may not be so clear to those individuals.  It’s important to discuss these issues with your heirs as well as your estate planning professionals to prevent questions that could lead to litigation after you have passed.

Manipulation and Undue Advantage: When one’s decision making ability becomes compromised or someone becomes overly reliant on another for care, companionship, or support, this can leave room for an opportunity for undue advantage to be taken through manipulation, influence, or abuse. You can put measures in place to protect yourself and your assets from someone looking to take undue advantage.

Missing Originals: Especially with so many documents being created and stored electronically, it can be easy to forget the importance of maintaining the originals of estate planning documents. Missing originals or originals kept where they can be accessed, destroyed, or altered by others can lead to a number of problems. Make sure to preserve original estate planning documents and make sure they are kept in a safe and secure place.

Even if you think that no disputes will arise among your loved ones after your passing, it is imperative that you address and anticipate the issues that might exist in your family. The difficult conversations and the little extra expense is well worth it to avoid trust and estate litigation.

For help with your estate plan, contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC at 708 482 7090 for our main office in LaGrange, Illinois or at 847 656 8958 for our Northbrook, Illinois office.