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Avoiding Estate Disputes Hinges On Clear Communication With Your Family

It is essential to create an estate plan and to appoint agents whom you trust entirely within your legal instruments. The primary reason to avoid estate disputes is that they are costly, stressful and preventable, for the most part. We understand that unexpected grief often fuels disappointment and conflict, but so does the decedent’s lack of communication with family members.

In our years of helping individuals and families prevent disputes with proper estate planning at Bryant & O'Connor Law Firm, we have also we have seen – and helped resolve – estate disputes.

Common Disputes Frequently Arise From A Lack Of Communication

Feuds about the validity of a will or a trust can arise because family members feel like the will or trust is incomplete or fraudulent, or they might believe their loved one was not mentally competent to create or update their will. Estate administration can quickly become an intricate and complex process for many reasons, including:

  • No estate planning documents – Where there is a will, there is a way; with no will or trust, there is still a way, but it takes longer and will be subject to Georgia’s intestate laws. Grieving family members frequently do not understand how important estate planning is until the death of the loved one occurs.
  • An updated will or trust no one knew about – Irregular updates made to an estate plan outside of an attorney’s office may confuse family members about which documents actually direct the decedent’s estate administration.
  • Unexpected debt – The decedent did not let their loved ones in on their medical debt, liens, gambling debt and other bills.
  • An estate plan that is not updated after divorce or remarriage – A former spouse may show up with legal documents in hand and become an unintended beneficiary if the decedent did not properly update their estate plan after divorce; a new spouse could be left out of the inheritance.
  • Unexpected heirs or beneficiaries – Former families or children born outside of known marriages or relationships may have a legal right to the heirship of the estate’s property.
  • A child left out of the will or trust – Sometimes, a child is left out of the will or trust intentionally and may not understand why.
  • Undue influence – Sudden changes to a will or a trust may have been the result of unethical coercion by family members, caregivers and, sometimes, even past attorneys and may cause interested parties to dispute the changes in the will or trust.
  • Legal formalities creating the will or trust are in question – A signature or date may be missing, or the exclusion of certain property may trigger suspicion of fraud.

It is critical to update your estate plan when significant changes such as marriage, the birth of a child, divorce or the death of a spouse occur.

At Bryant & O'Connor Law Firm, we abide by the legal formalities in the creation of your estate plan, will and trust. We build long-term relationships with our clients, and we can help you anticipate how to avoid these and other types of estate disputes.

Do You Want To Avoid Probate?

Probate is a court supervised process which is necessary for many estates. You can read more about the process on our Probate and Decedent’s Estates page, but we help many family save substantial sums of money and time by avoiding probate. In short, probate is a process for handling your property and debts held in your individual name (or indirectly a business owned in your name) after your death. Many people mistakenly believe that having a will avoids this process. Also, we often times see people rely upon payable on death designations or homemade “poor man’s estate planning” to try to keep the court out of their family’s business. These plans can easily backfire.

The probate process will require your administrator or executor to practically invite your creditors or disinherited heirs to make claims against your estate, making conflict much more likely. It will also make your family’s affairs public. Even if everything goes perfectly in probate, your assets will be tied up for a minimum of six to 12 months. If you find it important to keep most or all of your affairs out of the courts, schedule an estate planning session to find out how.

Contact Our Compassionate, Knowledgeable Estate Planning Attorneys For Assistance

Call Bryant & O'Connor Law Firm in Vidalia at 912-788-5095 or send us an email to schedule a consultation to learn about the services our attorneys offer for untangling estate disputes, including estate planning.

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