Family conflict is unfortunately a fact of life that exists in California and everywhere else. It can be a bitter dynamic when it erupts in the context of probate of a deceased parent’s estate. Probate contests not only may drain the estate of funds, but they also contribute to bad feelings among family members that can last for a long time.
When an aging parent is thinking about how to divide his or her estate, issues of the different needs and desires of the children often interfere with an easy decision. The parent often brings these considerations up with an estate planning attorney for assistance in resolving them. The advice to the parent will likely be to have a family meeting or otherwise confront the potential complications now rather than letting them manifest in full bloom after one’s death.
Experience teaches that the best way by far is to resolve the issues between children with the aging parent presiding over the efforts. Coming to an understanding in this way will cut down on potential claims that the parent would have wanted it some other way. Children will often claim undue influence in a will contest, arguing that the parent never would have made out the will that way without having been unduly swayed by the favored child.
Of course, there are many reasons why parents might want to favor some children over others, including financial needs, opportunities of each child, and a variety of questions dealing with fairness and the attention given to the parents by each child. Treating each child the same in the will or other estate planning methods is one way to avoid probate challenges being filed in a California probate court. The other viable option is to get the job done and out on the table now, so that the prospects for a bitter and expensive probate fight are substantially reduced.
Source: Forbes, “Aging Parents, Entitled Kids, Unequal Inheritance: Recipe For Fights“, Carolyn Rosenblatt, May 4, 2017