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Sibling Rivalry and Probate Litigation: Familiarity Can Breed ContemptWhether you grew up with brothers and sisters, or have more than one child of your own, you know that sibling rivalry is fairly common. We have found that even the friendliest of siblings, however, can end up embroiled in arguments when it comes to inheritance disputes. This is especially true if there is no will, but it can happen when there is an estate plan in place, too.

We have found that these are the more likely scenarios to lead to a will contest:

  1. There is economic disparity between the beneficiaries. If one sibling is “favored” over another, or if one person feels as if Mom or Dad treated him or her unfairly, that individual may contest the will.
  2. Accusations of mental incapacity – of the parents or the children. Later versions of a will are often contested if the children believe that their parent was under duress, or unable to make sound decisions about their estate. However, if one child in the family has mental health issues, or has a history of addiction, the other siblings may pursue litigation to protect their assets.
  3. The parent remarried, or has children from an earlier marriage. Blended families can make an estate plan more complex – especially if some children are closer to the parent than others, either in terms of physical space or emotional bonding. Children from a first marriage may claim they have a greater “right” to an estate than children from a marriage much later on (though the opposite of that is equally possible).
  4. Someone has been disinherited. A spouse or a child who has been left out of the will could have a strong case for contesting it. (Claiming “undue influence” is common in these scenarios.) While newer wills and trust documents can include clauses that strengthen disinheritance, older documents may not.
  5. Two trustees have been named as estate executors. If the two trustees disagree, it can thrust the entire administration process into turmoil.
  6. There is a business at stake. Business partners and shareholders can make a strong argument against an estate that does not have a clear business succession plan. If the company is family-owned and operated, the children may contest the will if the business assets are divided unfairly, or if one beneficiary is seen as being given a greater revenue stream (or decision-making abilities) than others.

Probate is a complex process. You want a skilled Chattanooga probate litigation lawyer on your side. At Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law, we’ve been helping folks navigate this process since 1945. You can rely on us to protect you, too. Please call 423-756-7923 or complete our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation.