Berman & Asbel, LLP

Wills may lead to family disputes

Preparing a will isn't necessarily a sure-fire way to maintain peace among a Pennsylvania testator's beneficiaries. In some cases, parents whose inheritance terms demonstrate favoritism may actually contribute to disputes. One poll reports that 44 percent of all will disputes are caused by siblings who believe they have been treated unfairly. The National Bureau of Economic Research found that between 1995 and 2010, the amount of parents who didn't create equal inheritances increased by more than 200 percent.

Parents are advised to review their estate planning strategies from time to time and bring children in on the process if possible. Holding a family meeting may be a good way to air grievances or clear misunderstandings in advance, and such events might later be applied as evidence that the testator didn't create the will in a diminished capacity.

Parents who plan on unequal divisions may have diverse motivations. In some cases, they want to provide for special care, even things out after giving earlier gifts to certain children or pay for future education expenses. Heirs who decide to dispute these terms may do so on various grounds, including the idea that the testator was being inappropriately influenced by a beneficiary.

Preparing wills and other estate planning documents requires intelligent foresight. In addition to coming up with a benefit distribution that meets goals like covering living expenses or providing for medical care, it is important to choose ensure that tax burdens don't cause extra stress for heirs or make them more inclined to litigation. Estate planning attorneys may suggest alternate structures like testamentary trusts to their clients.

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