Why do family feuds erupt over a loved one’s estate?

Estate conflicts rarely end with everyone satisfied with the results. Even worse, they can tear an entire family apart. Even when the estate fight is limited to just a few heirs, the rest of the family may “take sides” and add to the conflicts.

So, what type of circumstances tend to lead to estate battles? Some of the most common sources of conflict are:

  1. Unresolved sibling rivalry: Think that kids will just grow out of their rivalry? Think again. Even after siblings who fought as children become adults, the uneasy peace they’ve crafted may not last once their parents are gone.
  2. Blended families: After a parent’s death, the heirs in a blended family can end up splitting along the lines of “us” and “them” based on their biological and legal relationships to the deceased. Some heirs may not feel that the others have a right to their share of the estate.
  3. Unequal treatment: If a parent helped an heir start their business, pay for their home or finance a divorce, the remaining heirs may feel like that should be considered when it comes time to split the rest of the parent’s assets. They may deeply resent it if it isn’t.
  4. Undue influence: If a will was changed shortly before someone’s death to heavily favor one person to the exclusion of others, those who were disinherited may claim that the testator was coerced or manipulated into making the changes.
  5. Dependency or mental illness: When one heir has mental health issues or a chemical dependency, they may simply be unwilling to be reasonable and demand more than their fair share. Or, the other heirs may have built up some powerful resentments over time toward that person and feel like they don’t deserve an equal share of the estate.
  6. An heir with special needs: If the testator leaves behind an heir who needs a conservator or guardian, the other heirs may not see eye-to-eye on the decisions that were made in the will and start to squabble over what should be done.

There are many ways that estate battles start. Sometimes a situation can be diffused before it goes to litigation. If that’s not possible, however, it’s smart to have an experienced attorney on your side.