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How a complex family structure can result in probate disputes

On Behalf of | Apr 30, 2024 | Probate Litigation

Probate disputes is common in cases involving a complex family structure. A complex family is one that may involve multiple marriages, children from different relationships, stepchildren and other extended family members.

Each of these relationships can introduce unique challenges when it comes to the distribution of an estate after a person’s death. Specifically, these are reasons why and how these disputes can occur:

No will or unclear will

If the deceased did not leave a clear will, or there is no will at all, the applicable state’s intestacy laws will determine how the administrator shall distribute the estate assets. This can lead to disputes if family members feel the distribution does not reflect the deceased’s wishes or their own expectations.

Differing will interpretations

Even if there is a will, disputes may still arise. If the language used in the will is ambiguous, family members may have different interpretations of the deceased’s intentions. The dispute over the interpretation of the will’s terms can become more complex when there are multiple family members submit their own understanding of the provisions.

Unequal asset distribution

A complex family structure might lead to an unequal distribution of assets that family members may feel is unfair. For instance, one child might receive more than another, or stepchildren might be excluded entirely.

What you can do

While family disputes are unavoidable even in simple family structures, complex families increase the likelihood of disputes arising during probate. Nevertheless, by anticipating the possible issues in probate arising from a complex family structure and developing strategies to mitigate their effect on the process, you can protect your deceased loved one’s intentions and your rights as an heir or beneficiary.