When a loved one passes, the last thing we want is a falling out with family over what’s left behind. Unfortunately, emotions run high amid grief. Misunderstandings can arise and snowball into grudges, feuds, and unfortunate legal battles. These misunderstandings must be addressed immediately and appropriately to avoid inheritance delays, legal fees, and severed relationships. We’re going to address a few of the most common inheritance disputes and how to resolve them.
Each state has separate laws regarding an executor acting unfairly, but they all have a central theme. There are protections in place for all parties when an executor acts to benefit one party through favoritism. When this situation arises, complications can occur that will prolong the closure of the estate.
If there are any doubts about an executor’s neutrality, whether it is because of their relationship with a beneficiary or a perceived unfairness, the executor should opt-out of the position. If this occurs, the court will appoint the remaining heirs can select a backup executor or a professional executor. If the executor refuses to step down, the beneficiaries have the right to challenge their decisions in court. The court can then make a decision and appoint a new executor.
Shared Real Estate
If two or more beneficiaries are named as heirs to the same property, conflict can arise if they do not get along or don’t agree on how to manage the property. One may want to move in and keep the property in the family, while another may want to sell or turn it into an investment property. If differences aren’t able to be reconciled, one heir can buy out the other parties and remove them from the title.
When more than one individual is named as an executor, difficulties can arise. Each executor needs to agree on every estate decision, and that is highly unlikely. When co-executors fail to meet in the middle, a mediator is required to keep the process moving forward. If the mediator is unable to get both parties to reach agreements on critical issues, a trusted law firm will need to get involved.
Probate can be a lengthy process that requires professional legal navigation. If a party is unfamiliar with its stages, it might make the mistake of accessing inheritances (money, items, or property) that aren’t yet theirs. If this occurs, unintentionally or not, it can result in criminal charges. The executor can and will take legal action against a beneficiary who steals or who sells assets without their approval or before the closure of the estate. To prevent intentional theft, keep assets in a deposit box, and nominate a trusted family member to watch over them.