Probate Litigation: Disputes After a Parent’s Death

Is someone you know involved in a family dispute after a parent has died? Over a Will? Family land? A family business? In legal terms, these are probate disputes. The usual trigger for a probate dispute is an unmet expectation of one or more of the beneficiaries.

These are the guidelines I give my clients to minimize the likelihood of a probate dispute:

  1. Don’t create any surprises in a Will.
  2. If one child helps in the family business, provide for incrementally transferring shares to that child during the lifetime of the parent.
  3. Have a Buy/Sell Agreement whereby a surviving child who works in the business has the right to buy out the interest of a departing/deceased parent and include a formula to establish value.
  4. If one child will receive stock in the family business under a parent’s Will, equalize the value with a gift of an investments account or as a beneficiary of life insurance to the other child or children.
  5. If the bequests will not be equal, discuss this with the children during the parent’s lifetime. Although it may be difficult, it will be better than a later lawsuit and fracture of family relationships.
  6. Include language in the parent’s Will that any beneficiary who challenges the Will shall receive nothing.
  7. The parent can also create an Intervivos Trust and Pour-over Will (into the trust) which in combination is more difficult to successfully challenge. The use of an Intervivos Trust and a Pour-over Will should be discussed with your attorney.

If you are a resident of Winchester, VA, Frederick County, Northern Virginia, or anywhere in between and are looking for an attorney with experience in business law, estate planning, equine law, real estate law, or civil litigation, contact Joan Fine today.