Ways to prevent sibling conflict during probate

Having substantial assets may cause a parent in Michigan to feel anxious over the way the children will deal with the news of who gets what in the estate plan. According to Forbes magazine, much of the potential for disputes over inheritance may be anticipated and addressed ahead of time.

Even if sibling rivalry is kicking in before the parent has passed, there is no need to take such drastic measures as eliminating the assets so no one gets them. However, if the parent owns a significant amount of personal property, heirlooms and real estate, and the likelihood of conflict is high, he or she may want to go as far as to designate that all items are sold at auction, and the money divided evenly. Someone who would rather keep things in the family may want to have a professional mediator assist with the discussion when finalizing the estate plan.

AAII Journal also advises that parents include children in the inheritance discussion early in the game, but suggests a separate, detailed list of personal items and who they will go to, in addition to financial assets. However, experts do not recommend that children receive a copy of the will. Life changes and other factors may necessitate that the document be updated, and siblings may see the new stipulations as rejections or losses of what they felt they were being promised before. It is a good idea to update the plan regularly to ensure that changes do not throw things out of balance and to keep the distribution as equal as possible.

A divorce or remarriage is another factor that can muddy the waters when it comes to the perception of fairness. This is particularly true when joint assets may automatically pass to a second spouse, in which case the children may not receive any inheritance at all.