Although leaving someone you love an inheritance is meant to bestow both a gift and a legacy, inheritance disputes can result in resentment, bitterness, and even familial estrangement. If you are planning your estate and want to do everything possible to discourage inheritance disputes, or if you have become entangled in such a dispute as a beneficiary, personal representative, or trustee, now is the time to contact a seasoned estate planning attorney who knows the ropes. 

For residents of Virginia, Randall J. Borden, Attorney at Law is well-prepared to take your case. He has decades of experience as an estate planning attorney and a deserved reputation for sharp skills and deep compassion. Once you call our office and become his client, you will be amazed at how quickly the worry or turmoil you may be experiencing becomes manageable in the hands of a capable professional.

Why Do Inheritance Disputes Arise?

Inheritance disputes, like other arguments, often arise during a period of tension and confusion like the one that often follows the death of a loved one. Add to that the inability of those left behind to come to terms with the loss, the anger known to be a component of grief, and the old jealousies and resentments that exist in every family and resurface during anxiety and turmoil — and you have a recipe for conflict.

Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to set the tinder off, leading to a conflagration. Any of the following can provoke relatives whose nerves are frayed and whose world has been forever altered to threaten litigation:

  • Unclear or outdated wills can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts among beneficiaries.
  • Death without a will (intestate) so that the family either doesn’t know the wishes of the deceased or cannot enforce them, leaving the courts to determine the distribution of assets.
  • Perceived inequity that can easily occur when heirs feel that the distribution of assets doesn’t reflect the deceased’s true intentions.
  • Lack of communication can foster misunderstanding. If the deceased never spoke of their estate plan to their family members, decisions concerning the distribution of assets may seem unfair or even incomprehensible. 
  • Blended families rarely blend easily or completely, especially when the merger takes place late in life. Too often, it doesn’t take much to provoke confrontations between newly related step-siblings or stepparents and stepchildren. 
  • Issues surrounding undue influence and mental capacity can also often lead to disputes, especially because older people (the ones most likely to die) may lose a certain amount of cognitive power even if they are not suffering from dementia.

Factors That Contribute to Inheritance Disputes 

In some families, existing conditions or missteps on the part of the testator exacerbate the situation. For example: 

  • Complex family dynamics and previous conflicts may have already strained relationships. 
  • High-net-worth and complex estates (e.g. with many properties) may, unfortunately, be more conducive to fighting since the stakes are so high.
  • Valuable business interests may also expose unexpected greed or ambition among family members.
  • Specific bequests of a valuable item (such as an antique car, a piece of high-end jewelry, or a valuable painting) can also stir hard feelings in heirs who anticipated receiving something of great monetary or sentimental value but did not.
  • Multiple wills can, of course, create confusion and conflict regarding which document reflects the true wishes of the deceased.
  • Choice of a personal representative or trustee relatives do not agree upon.

How to Avoid Inheritance Disputes

There is no way to guarantee that no inheritance disputes will arise when you die. Nonetheless, Randall Borden recommends the following strategies to minimize the risk of triggering conflict:

  • Begin planning your estate at an early age since none of us knows the future and you want to avoid dying intestate.
  • Don’t exaggerate your wealth, raising false expectations among your heirs.
  • Continue to update estate planning documents to reflect changes in family circumstances, such as births, marriages, divorces, diagnoses of illnesses or special needs, and major changes in financial status.
  • Keep your family in the loop to reduce surprises and misunderstandings. Being transparent about your decision-making process now will avoid conflict after you’re gone.

If you want to avoid inheritance disputes, your beneficiaries should be told how much their inheritance is likely to be and notified if that amount changes considerably.

  • Use an experienced attorney who will draft clear, unambiguous, legally binding documents.
  • Put a no-contest clause in your will. This discourages argument and litigation by stating that any beneficiary who contests the will won’t inherit.
  • Put a mediation/conflict resolution in your will so that if disputes do arise, they can be settled fairly out of court with the help of a neutral third party.
  • Choose your personal representative wisely with an eye toward someone diplomatic as well as competent and honest.

How Randall Borden Successfully Handles Inheritance Disputes

Attorney Borden’s estate planning skills have been developed and refined over his years in practice. Whether you want the peace of mind that comes from knowing he has helped you forestall future inheritance disputes among your kin or the legal intervention that will calm the turbulent waters of an ongoing inheritance dispute, he will provide you with:

  • Excellent guidance
  • Well-drafted legal documents
  • Transparent communication both as a lawyer and a mediator
  • Fine courtroom representation if it becomes necessary

Contact Our Experienced Fairfax Inheritance Dispute Attorney

Having an accomplished professional at your side can make all the difference when you’re trying to create an estate plan that will protect your assets and your loved ones. It is also invaluable when you want to avoid inheritance disputes or bring them to a successful resolution. Call Randall Borden now to discuss your best options.