How to Minimize Inheritance Fights Between Relatives

By George Khoury, Esq. on April 26, 2017 | Last updated on May 06, 2022

This post was updated on March 30, 2022

When there's a death in the family, the last thing anyone wants is a big fight over the deceased's property and assets. Unfortunately, relatives can quickly turn to bitter enemies when it comes to money and inheritances.

However, there are few things you can do to potentially help stop relatives from spending the funeral and grieving period fighting over who gets what. Here are three tips on how to minimize inheritance fights between relatives.

1. Have a Valid Will Prepared and Regularly Updated

If this sounds like common sense to you, then you're right. Creating a will is not only an excellent way to take stock of what you have. It's a responsible thing to do for yourself and your loved ones. In your will, you can:

  • List who gets what of your stuff
  • Name a guardian for your minor children
  • State that you do not want someone to inherit anything
  • Donate a portion or all of your estate to charity

If you prepare a clear document explaining what you want to happen with your property and assets, there will be less reason for relatives to fight. They will also have fewer legal grounds on which to stand if they are thinking of filing a lawsuit.

Although it is just common sense to do so, many people avoid preparing a will their entire life and assume their spouse or children will inherit everything without event. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case, particularly when there have been multiple spouses and many children and grandchildren.

There is no time like the present to create a will. You can do it from the comfort of home using FindLaw Legal Forms & Services. This advice doesn't just need to apply to a will and inheritance. By creating other estate planning documents like a financial power of attorney, health care directive, and living will, you can reduce the possibility of disputes arising amongst your loved ones while you are alive as well.

2. Don't Cut Anyone Out, List to Dismiss

Frequently, challenges to inheritances come from relatives who were cut out, either intentionally or accidentally. Usually, a rightful heir, like a child or spouse, accidentally left off the will can successfully challenge an inheritance. However, individuals intentionally left out will generally have a much more difficult time challenging an inheritance.

While it may seem counterintuitive, listing the names of persons who you specifically want to exclude from inheriting anything of yours can make it more difficult for those listed persons to challenge an inheritance. They will be unable to argue that you left them out accidentally.

3. Prepare at Least a Couple of Relatives for the Unknown

Don't shock relatives and close family with a surprise revelation in your will. If possible, tell a few relatives about what and who you put in your will. This will prevent others from coming forward to claim the will is inaccurate or trying to produce a fake document that they say is your "real" will.

If there is a secret child, former spouse, secret lover, or another person to who you wish to leave property, it's good to let someone know ahead of time. If a few relatives (or at least your executor) know about who these people are, it can help prevent disputes from arising due to the surprise. Just letting a lawyer know may be good enough for a court, but it might not help when it comes to fights between relatives.

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