In 1999, Jay Pritzker, the multi-billionaire founder of the Pritzker group, passed away leaving behind large portfolio of assets. Pritzker’s legacy included a family law firm, the Hyatt Hotel chain he founded in 1957 with his brother, and multiple charities. Throughout his life, Jay Pritzker focused on the importance of family and intended for his family to operate the empire he created as a unit after he passed away. Unfortunately, after the billionaire passed away, almost a dozen relatives including his grandchildren, children, and cousins became locked in a litigious feud. The Pritzker legal battle is an example of the types of problems multiple heirs can cause during probate.
When a loved one passes away, families are supposed to come together to offer each other emotional support and comfort. Sadly, in some situations, instead of bonding, families become fixated on settling old scores or become obsessed with old grudges. A decades-old argument could influence a family member’s decision to contest all or part of a will, starting a dispute that may drag probate out for months or possibly years. Any person creating an estate plan should remember that family feuds may not be put aside after they have passed away.
Hard to Reach a Consensus
Just because an estate is in probate does not mean the feedback and opinions of the family are no longer needed. The probate court may need beneficiaries to come to a consensus regarding certain assets or to clear up potential disputes. When there are multiple heirs involved, it can become harder for everyone to come to an agreement on even the simplest matters. In the case of the Pritzker family, an inability to come to an agreement over approximately $1 billion that was part of a $15 billion inheritance led to a six-year probate battle that led to all assets being divided among approximately 13 relatives.
Throughout the probate process, communication is of vital importance. Court-appointed administrators and named executors must keep all creditors and beneficiaries up to date on every aspect of the estate. However, when there are many beneficiaries involved, things can become complicated and extremely confusing. Failing to keep heirs informed is one of the most common reasons for initiating a probate dispute or challenging an executor’s right to continue administering the estate. Even if the oversight is innocent and caused by having such a large number of people to keep informed, it could still lead to serious repercussions.
One of the best ways to protect your heirs from future probate problems is to consult an experienced probate attorney when you are ready to establish an estate plan. An attorney who is aware of what assets you are planning to leave behind and aware of the needs of your heirs can work with you to come up with the best way to distribute your property. The team at MMZ Law is prepared to help you and ensure that your final wishes are followed. Contact us today and schedule an initial consultation at our Claremont, California office so that we can begin discussing your needs.
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MMZ LAW, A PROFESSIONAL CORPORATION
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.