What is Probate Litigation and How Can You Avoid It?
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.
Reducing the Chances For Probate Litigation
These are the guidelines I give my clients to minimize the likelihood of a probate dispute:
- Don’t create any surprises in a Will.
- If one child helps in the family business, provide for incrementally transferring shares to that child during the lifetime of the parent.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Include language in the parent’s Will that any beneficiary who challenges the Will shall receive nothing.
- 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.