One of the primary purposes of a will is to provide your loved ones with detailed instructions regarding the way you would like your estate to be divided. Typically, estates are divided among immediate heirs or other close friends or relatives who expected to receive a share of your estate.  When estates are shared equally or the inheritance structure was already anticipated, there are few problems, but in some situations, unexpected or unpopular bequests could lead to problems for your executor. While every situation is unique, the following are four estate choices that could cause trouble for your heirs and estate administrator.

Anything Concerning Pets

Including pets in a will is becoming more common and is something that pet owners who believe their companion will outlive them often consider. Unfortunately, doing anything more than designating a temporary or long term guardian for your pets could lead to serious problems.  Attempting to leave money for the care of your pet to a specific person may cause disputes between heirs who feel that they should have been left the pet and the money that will be used to care for that pet.

Unequal Bequests

Not every person wants to leave their children or heirs equal amounts of money. The average person will leave a child who is in greater financial need a larger inheritance than a financially stable sibling. An heir who is left real estate property may not receive any cash from the estate because the property was meant to be his or her only inheritance. Once heirs start comparing notes and realize that someone received “more” than the other, it is not unusual for arguments or disputes to arise.

Omitting Children

Just like leaving certain heirs unequal amounts of money or property can cause problems, so can completely omitting a person who would traditionally be considered an heir. A child who is omitted from a will could challenge the will, typing up the estate for months or years. When billionaire J. Howard Marshall passed away at the age of 90, one of his adult sons, J. Howard Marshall III, challenged his omission from his father’s will. The legal battle lasted for a decade, and during the proceedings, J. Howard Marshall’s named beneficiary, E. Pierce Marshall, passed away before receiving the inheritance his father left him.

Preference to a Second Spouse

A growing number of adults in the United States are choosing to get remarried after getting divorced from their first spouse. Some of these adults are getting remarried in their later years and occasionally have children from their first marriage. When a will shows preference to a second spouse, leaving a larger percentage of an estate to that spouse may lead step-children to decide to challenge the will.

Create Your Will with the Help of an Attorney

One of the best ways to avoid making choices that may lead to your will being challenged is to consult an estate lawyer. A qualified attorney can draft a will for you and discuss the possible ramifications of any choices that you make. The team at MMZ Law understands that creating a will that helps your heirs and does not lead to disputes is of the utmost importance. We will work with you to make a plan that adheres to your wishes while limiting possible conflict. Contact us today at 909-256-6702 to schedule an initial consultation at our Claremont, California office.



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.