Probate battles: Where there's a will, there's a relative


Originally published in the Daily Journal - March 14, 2012.

Imagine this hypothetical situation: A mother dies, leaving her daughter 75 percent of her estate. Her son, who believed he was to receive 50 percent, contests the will. The daughter claims that their mother must have changed her will to compensate the daughter for caring for her during her last illness. The son, who was geographically distant, contends daughter alienated his mother from him and is now taking his inheritance. The daughter feels her brother abandoned her. And now, the son and daughter, who were once close, have turned on each other.

An "unnatural" disposition in a decedent's will can cause intra-family conflict, and will contests are often expensive and lengthy. More alarming, the litigation usually results in estrangement among family members. In the example, not only have son and daughter lost their mother, but now they may also lose each other. What can legal professionals do to prevent such a tragedy? Here are four strategies...

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