and estates lawyers, we often see families fighting. Over
and over, clients caught in a family inheritance battle tell
us that they had assumed this sort of thing could never happen
proves one thing: It really can happen in your family.
Signs: Danger Ahead!
are about to read are common situations that may indicate
that a Family War is looming in your family. If you recognize
any of these, beware.
mother and your sister have a very large joint bank account.
In fact, this large bank account represents the money from
your fathers estate that went to your mother under his
Will. The only reason for your sister being named as joint
owner is because she lives in the same town as your mother
and you live 40 miles away. You have been told that as a joint
owner, that joint account will all go to your sister when
your Mom dies.
sister share the joint account with you when Mom dies?
always trusted you and you always looked after her. She appointed
you under her financial Power of Attorney so that you could
help her in managing her financial affairs. Always acting
in Moms best interests, you bought what she needed and
made sure she was always provided for in the best way possible.
Your sisters, who were spared the burden of managing Moms
affairs, never seemed to mind these arrangements. However,
after Mom died, they suddenly began to question many of the
expenses that you paid out of her bank account using her Power
a new feeling of mistrust when they insist on a full written
accounting from you for the first time.
prepared to answer their questions?
and Dad always managed to settle the rumblings over who would
get certain weekends at the family cottage during the summer.
Your sister would, if she had her way, take all the holiday
weekends for herself, leaving the weekdays for you and your
brother. She has never changed her attitude. Although Dad
has now passed away, Mom still has the ability to keep her
in line. What will happen once Mom passes away? You see trouble
still be able to use the cottage when you want to?
older brother brags about how he is always suing people and
winning. For example, he likes to talk about the fact that
he sued the store owner for defective merchandise, and of
the time that he sued the city because he slipped on some
wet pavement. He is proud of the fact that he is always wearing
people down until they give in, and he lets you know that
he is not afraid to go to court. Your older brother is a bully,
and to him, litigation is a game.
be able to stand up to him if he starts a lawsuit over your
sister-in-law is very controlling. When your brother got married
to her, he stopped coming to family functions. She is also
very cold to you. Now you find that your brother is following
her lead. Your brother rarely sees Mom anymore.
dies will she push your brother into a battle with you over
confides in you, always telling you how much she trusts you.
Recently, she has told you that because you are the eldest
child, you are the one who will be the best to look after
her estate. She tells you this in confidence, wanting you
to promise to say nothing to your brothers and sisters. She
then appoints you as sole executor of her estate.
siblings be so jealous that they will look for any way to
sue you as Moms executor?
you and your siblings get together at Moms house, everyone
always admires the expensive painting in the living room.
Mom does not want to make any specific provision in her Will
to cover this painting. She believes that all of her children
will work it out.
you feel if the painting ends up hanging on your sisters
brother lives well above his means. In fact, he has a job
that pays nowhere near enough to support his lifestyle. He
is swimming in debt, but feels that in the end, he will have
nothing to worry about. His reasoning is that his inheritance
from your parents will solve all of his financial problems.
Your brother is a waiterhe is waiting for
fight to get as much as he can to support his lifestyle?
sister has moved away and lives on the other side of the continent.
Except for a telephone call at Christmas, she has no contact
with the family. Mom tells you that it would be unfair for
your sister to receive as much as you under her Will. Mom
intends to leave your sister a very small amount.
sister accept a lesser amount than you?
always laughs about how bad Dads memory is. He is always
forgetting where he puts his keys. He repeats the same stories
over and over again. There are times when he calls you by
your brothers name and calls your brother by your name.
But now Dad wants to give you the down payment for your new
brothers and sisters challenge Dads gift to you, alleging
Dads lack of mental capacity?
are the only one of your siblings who sees Dad regularly.
The others are too busy with their own families. You take
Dad to all of his doctors appointments, you take him
shopping, and you take him to do his banking. When it comes
time for Dad to make a new Will, he tells you he wants to
leave you more than your siblings. He asks you take him to
siblings claim the Will is invalid because you pressured Dad
into a making a new Will?
and Dad are aging, but doing well at home. They have repeatedly
made it clear to you and your sister that if anything happens
to them they want to remain at home because they do not like
the idea of being in a nursing home. You want to follow Mom
and Dads wishes. Your sister feels that she knows better.
Court have to decide what is best for Mom and Dad?
and your brother disagree about everything. Mom has appointed
you and your brother as joint executors of her estate.
after Mom dies and you cant agree?
have always worked hard and earned enough money to live comfortably.
Your brother is a no-good slouch who cannot hold a job and
lives on welfare. From the way Dad is talking, you get the
feeling that he believes that your brother needs the inheritance
more than you do.
be upset and look for ways to get what you think is fair?
many years, you have built up the family business working
side-by-side with Dad while your brother was getting a university
education. When your brother occasionally drops in to see
you at the business, he tells you how you should modernize"
and make changes in the business. You realize that with all
of his university education, your brother knows absolutely
nothing about the business. Last month, at a family gathering,
Dad told you that he is going to divide everything equally
in his Will.
you going to be able to deal with having your brother as your
and Dad gave your sister money for university. They gave you
a lot more money to help you buy your new house.
when your sister finds out that you got a lot more than she
years, Mom always talked about what she was going to do in
her Will. When you asked her if she ever made her Will, she
told you she will get around to it as soon as she has time.
she dies without a Will?
believes that if you want it done right then you do it yourself.
He fixes his own car and repairs his own house. Now he is
going to the internet to find out how to draft his own Will.
will Dad cause by drafting his own Will?
Dad passed away, Mom appointed Uncle Fred as her executor
because Uncle Fred was good with finances. Years have now
passed and she has decided to name you and your brother as
her executors because she no longer has confidence in Uncle
Fred. However, she has been procrastinating and you and your
brother are still not appointed. Last week, her doctor found
her to be mentally incapable. It is now too late for Mom to
make a new Will.
Fred follow what you want done with Moms estate?
got remarried three years ago. You are her only child, but
her husband has three daughters from his first marriage. You
always felt that Mom would protect you if anything happened
to her. But now she is going to a lawyer to do her Will and
tells you that she is going to leave everything to your step
father. You know that this will include your grandmothers
heirlooms and very expensive jewellery, which Dad gave to
her. She says not to worry because your step father will leave
these things to you in his Will.
step father make a Will that respects your Moms wishes?
appointed you under his financial Power of Attorney and now
Dad is incapacitated. You begin to examine all of his assets
and liabilities. In his papers you discover Dads note
that your brother borrowed $10,000 from him. You mention this
to your brother, who says that he paid that loan off. Your
sister swears to you that Dad told her before he became ill
that the loan was outstanding. You ask your brother to show
proof of payment and he says that he repaid Dad in cash.
sister force you, as your Dads Power of Attorney, to
sue your brother to get the money back?
signs demonstrate how issues that may not be problematic while
Mom and Dad are in charge can ultimately turn into a Family
War when the parents lose their mental capacity or die. While
the parent is alive and healthy, the childrens thoughts
and feelings are often suppressed and issues are glossed over.
The referee parent is still on the scene, keeping
a lid on any potential flashpoints. But, when the parent is
gone, the restraints are lifted and sometimes these flashpoints
explode into a Family War.