In exchanging stories with a number of attorneys over the last several years, it amazed me to find out how much time an estate planning attorney spends attempting to resolve family disputes after the death of a loved one.
A term for this is “probate litigation.” Probate litigation refers to legal disputes about issues surrounding aging, disability, and death. It involves court battles over those still alive, including legal fights over powers of attorney, patient advocate designations, and living wills. More often however, it involves legal challenges when someone has passed on, such as disputes regarding wills, trusts, estates, assets, gifts, and anything else that families can fight about after a loved one dies.
There are infinite stories surrounding celebrities and their families (and unknowns coming out of the woodwork) fighting over their property and possessions after they’re gone, and unfortunately many of us have experienced or know of a situation involving family infighting after a loved one has passed – but not all probate litigation is negative! Many probate litigation cases center around families trying to protect loved ones, or recover property or money from an outsider, such as a caregiver, financial planner, or significant other. These situations often involve some form of financial exploitation.
The unfortunate thing about all of this is that many times, these situations can be avoided with a little planning! More often than not, these instances arise due to the individual having no estate plan at all, or an inadequate one, or perhaps they have a plan however, chose the wrong individual to be the person in charge.
If you have any “stuff” at all, make sure your loved ones know what you want done with it. Record it, draft your own legal document (there are a multitude of on-line services) and if possible, have an attorney put it all together for you. Save your family from possible feuds after you’re gone.
For more tips and information on how to store and keep all your important and legal documents safe, visit our planning center.