Losing a parent is one of the most painful things that an adult can experience. Having siblings who can offer comfort and support is one of the ways that adult children can begin to cope with grief. Unfortunately, there are times when a sibling is the cause of pain after the loss of a parent rather than a source of support. Studies have shown that approximately 70% of conflicts between adult siblings are related to mutual parents and money. When inheritance is involved, those conflicts can become more extreme with sibling rivalry turning probate into a nightmare.

Fighting Over the Remains

When baseball legend Ted Williams passed away, the public became fascinated by his children’s courtroom battles regarding how to dispose of their father’s remains. One sibling believed their father wanted to be cremated while the other said their father wanted to be cryogenically frozen.  While not everyone has had the exact same battle, more than a few siblings have fought over where to bury their parents, if their parents wanted to be cremated, or argued over a parent’s wish to donate their body to research. These battles can take years especially if there is no will providing clear instructions regarding burial.

Expensive Litigation

Once family battles spill over into the courtroom, everyone starts spending far more money than they planned. Filing fees, attorney retainers, and other expenses can quickly drain an estate or spend a person’s expected inheritance. Failing to acknowledge rivalries between children and include those facts in your estate plan could cost your heirs dearly. Even a mild disagreement can cause months of litigation that diminishes the legacy you are leaving your loved ones. In some cases, children have gone through multi-year probate battles only to end up inheriting absolutely nothing or dealing with debt accumulated through years of litigation.

Court Takes Control

No matter how many times a parent admonishes his or her children to get along or how often estate attorneys advise clients to work with their siblings, someone can still make a mistake that leads to the court taking an active role in estate administration. Probate court does attempt to mediate situations and focuses on working towards a decision that all parties can tolerate, but every once in a while, the court has no choice but to take charge. Once that happens, neither sibling will play an active role in caring for the estate. Instead, a court appointed individual will make all decisions and notify beneficiaries as needed.

Protect Your Estate

If you are concerned about the rivalry of your children affecting their ability to manage your estate, consider retaining a probate attorney. An attorney who is focused on your best interests is able to follow your instructions as outlined without being hampered by the rivalry that many adult children experience. The team at MMZ Law is prepared to discuss your situation with you and help you decide how best to proceed. Contact our office today to schedule your first consultation so that we can beginning providing you with the legal representation you deserve.





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.