In December of 2017 French-born musician Jean-Philippe Leo Smet, commonly known as Johnny Hallyday, passed away leaving behind a widow and four children. Often referred to as the French Elvis Presley the musician resided in Los Angeles, California citing the high taxes in France as his reason for relocating to California. While living in California, Hallyday drafted a will that left his entire estate to his wife and their two children. Two months after his death, Hallyday’s two oldest children who were disinherited challenged the will leading to the assets of the entire estate being frozen. While this is an extreme example of how will disputes can end, it is still important to be aware of how property disputes harm your heirs.

Makes Private Issues Public

One reason people spend the time creating an estate plan is to avoid probate court. Not only does probate court take a lot of time, it is also very public, making every aspect of the estate itself available for public consumption. If you are leaving your heirs a great deal of money, valuable property, and other assets that you may not want the general public to know about, their dispute could completely unravel all of your careful planning. This can also result in your heirs making themselves the targets of scammers and other opportunists who know exactly what they are worth.

Delays Everyone from Receiving Their Inheritances

As previously mentioned, once a dispute occurs and the court becomes involved, things take a lot of time. Instead of closing the estate by making sure creditors are paid and taxes are filed, if necessary, and then distributing assets, the heirs must all wait. While waiting to receive property or money may not seem that important, problems could occur if physical property such as land, homes, or other real estate is changing hands. During the inheritance dispute, taxes still need to be paid and upkeep must continue as usual.  If your estate does not have many liquid assets, this could create a burden and place the property at risk of foreclosure, tax liens, and more.

Financially Drains the Estate and Heirs

Perhaps most importantly, a property dispute can financially drain everyone involved.  If the dispute is severe enough to warrant going to court your heirs may find themselves hiring attorneys, paying filing fees, and other expenses. Meanwhile, the estate will need to continue to pay costs associated with maintaining property and administration fees. Depending on the size of the estate and the length of the court battle, once everything is resolved your heirs may be left with little or nothing.

Avoiding Disputes

The best way to avoid having your heirs hurt by long drawn out disputes over your estate is to hope for the best while actively planning for the worst. Take sibling rivalry, personal conflicts, and the finances of your heirs into account when creating your estate plan. Make sure your wishes are clearly outlined, your reasoning is explained, and your executor is someone who is able to keep the peace. The estate planning attorneys at MMZ Law know how difficult estate planning is, and we work with you to make sure your heirs are protected. Contact us today so that we can begin providing you with the legal advice you need to avoid future estate disputes.




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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.