After working to build a legacy that you can leave to your children and grandchildren, the last thing you want is for that legacy of love to turn into a source of resentment. Unfortunately, no matter how close your heirs appear to be during your life, it is not unusual for familial bonds to weaken when money or property is involved. In August of 2016, the children of civil rights legend Martin Luther King Jr. found themselves in court battling over rights to their father’s personal Bible and Nobel Peace Prize medal awarded to him in 1964. Regardless of how evenly you divide your estate or how often you discuss your plans with your heirs, disputes may still occur. Utilizing some valuable advice for reducing inheritance conflicts may aid your beneficiaries and help to avoid the lasting damage that prolonged litigation can cause.

Acknowledge Relationships and Family Roles

The bonds between various family members are not always equal, with certain siblings preferring each other to the exclusion of other siblings and some parents having closer bonds with certain children. Instead of ignoring these relationships, acknowledge them and keep them in mind when creating trusts or a will. Anticipating the possibility of two children who have a close bond working together to dispute the choices of another sibling gives you an opportunity to avoid the conflict before it occurs. Also, if one relative is typically the responsible member in the family who handles most business decisions, it is best to continue that trend when creating an estate plan. Abruptly disrupting a pattern that your family is accustomed to solely to place a person in charge based on age or birth order can create serious problems.

Treat Personal Property Differently

Personal belongings that may have sentimental value to one or all of your heirs should be treated differently than other assets. When it comes to wills and estate distribution, it is not uncommon for families to become involved in legal battles over items based on sentimental value rather than potential monetary value.  Creating a list within your will that specifically lists personal items (complete with a description) along with their intended recipient reduces conflict. Also, consider providing a direct and clear explanation regarding your choice of a recipient to make it easier for your choice to defend your decision during an emotionally charged time.

Avoid Joint Ownership

Joint ownership is a common way for parents and guardians to leave their heirs an equal inheritance. However, leaving property such as real estate to multiple owners can create unintended results and turn into a burden for one or more of the recipients. A person who is named co-owner of a home that is occupied by a sibling(s) or other relative(s) may find themselves responsible for paying property taxes, maintenance, or other expenses solely because their name is legally associated with the property.

Consult a Professional

Our estate planning attorney at MMZ Law has worked with clients throughout California who want to secure the future of their heirs without causing conflict within their family. Our attorneys are able to suggest estate distribution methods that we have used in the past to protect the wishes of our clients and help their families avoid disputes during a difficult time. Contact our Claremont, California office today and schedule an appointment so that we can discuss your needs.



341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711

MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of Elder Law – Medi-Cal Planning Asset Protection, Trust & Estate, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration, & Probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont but assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.