Losing a loved one is always a painful process. A drawn-out and acrimonious probate process can compound the anguish you’re already experiencing.
It’s not uncommon for family members to disagree about how their loved one’s assets are distributed. However, many such conflicts arise from a lack of understanding regarding how the probate process – and estate planning law – work. Here are a few things you can do to help get family members and other beneficiaries on the same page:
Recognize potential issues ahead of time
Family dynamics often have an emotional history – making certain types of disagreements predictable. Before you even enter into the probate process, it’s worth identifying potential issues that may crop up. For example, if there is a long-standing sibling rivalry between children of the deceased, or family members did not agree on how the deceased was cared for at the end of their life, you may be able to take steps to help prevent conflict before it starts.
Build a common understanding
Most people don’t know anything about how probate works until they first suffer the loss of a loved one. This means they may have misconceptions about how the process works. Some family members may not understand why the executor is delaying asset distribution, for example. It’s important to talk to any heirs and explain the various steps of the process, as well as the role and responsibilities of the executor.
Know your options
While an estate plan is intended to outline a loved one’s wishes, and an executor will work to carry out those wishes as accurately as possible, mistakes and confusion can still occur. If you feel that your loved one’s wishes are not being correctly carried out, speaking with an estate planning attorney about your concerns can be a more effective way of addressing the situation. They can help you understand your rights under the law and take corrective action as necessary.