E233 Probate Problems with Sibling Rivalries
We all know siblings who are constantly competing or comparing with each other. Let’s talk about how those rivalries cause problems during probate.
Which sibling inherits more?
If there is any slight imbalance of inheritance amounts, there’s an issue of who was the favorite. Or maybe it’s an issue of who took care of mom or dad at the end of life. Maybe there is compensation or gratitude for whoever dedicated the time when things got difficult at the end. It might also be a reflection of who already received lifetime gifts or support. Maybe the parent helped with a down payment for one sibling’s house or tuition for another sibling’s children.
There could be many reasons for each sibling inheriting different amounts, but the siblings will see it the way they want to see it, and this imbalance can create conflict.
Which sibling gets more control, communications during probate?
It’s not just about competing for dollars or inheritance amounts. Even if everything is divided equally, there could still be disputes or harsh feelings about who gets to be the executor. In this case, it may be better to hire an independent executor. It could relieve some stress.
But, even if you have an independent executor, there could be disputes about who talks to the lawyer/executor more! We get this a lot: “I heard that my sister emailed you several times, and I want to know everything you told her.” Making the attorney the middleman slows things down and creates more billable time.
When siblings don’t talk
When siblings don’t talk to each other, the attorney ends up having double communications – which increases costs. For example, I may have a phone call with the older sister to explain the file status. Then, I have the same phone call with the other two siblings separately. That’s three billed items that could have been just one.
In severe situations, siblings want to make sure the other siblings never get their contact information. We have to ensure that phone, email, and home addresses never get shared with the other! It’s a lot to keep track of.
For example, we’ve had to file probate petitions in such a way that the addresses of the heirs are hidden. In another recent example, we had to mail out 18 separate letters instead of one mass letter, so that no one has each other’s contact information. If that’s what the siblings want, we’ll do it. They just have to understand that there’s a cost involved.
To learn more about what probate entails, check out my book, “How Probate Works,” available on Amazon.