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Probate Horror Story #7: Family Infighting

Welcome to the seventh in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of The Brown Law Firm, LLC. Last month the topic focused on what could happen if a person has named a secret beneficiary in their will. This month we are focusing on family infighting over wills.

Fictional Situation: Rosalyn

  • 83-year-old female
  • Widowed
  • 3 quarreling adult children with different financial statuses
  • 1 child lives nearby and cares for Rosalyn
  • Owns her home and a house full of antiques
  • Paying monthly for a vacation cabin and a new automobile
  • Has a will and nominated her two oldest children as co-executors

Rosalyn loved each of her children equally but did not leave equal shares of her inheritance to each child. Because one of her children took on most of the responsibilities of caring for her in her later years, she left her home and car directly to that child – feeling that her daughter deserved this additional inheritance. The remainder of the Rosalyn’s estate was to be divided equally between her three children.  After her death, the other siblings felt cheated and contested the will.

One sibling in particular who struggled with his finances saw this as an opportunity to improve his financial status and the battle began. This sibling wanted the vacation home immediately sold and access to Rosalyn’s residence to obtain his portion of her valuable personal property so he could fire-sale those items for temporary financial gain. In general, the siblings could not agree on whether to keep or sell Rosalyn’s valuable personal property.

Because Rosalyn appointed two of her children as executors, the infighting escalated because only one of the executors sided with the sibling needing the financial support. When siblings are already quarreling prior to a loved one’s death, the rifts may only grow stronger.

Due to this infighting, Rosalyn’s probate estate could become subject to litigation for months or even years. This lengthy and expensive litigation serves no one in the end – and could end up diminishing the value of the estate due to lawyer and court fees.

Rosalyn could have minimized this infighting by appointing an neutral third party professional as executor of the estate and discussed the ramifications of her wishes and the will with an experienced estate planning lawyer. The Denver estate planning attorneys at The Brown Law Firm, LLC have extensive experience in helping people create wills in Colorado. Of course, there is no way to completely eliminate the possibility of disputes, but there are ways to set up your will to curtail opposition. To learn more or to hire a Denver estate planning lawyer, please contact us at (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online.

Watch for our blog next month for the next installment in our Probate Horror Story Series.