The topic of inheritance is undeniably a fraught one. The simple fact that you are dealing with the loss of a loved one tends to take precedence in the immediate aftermath, with little thought for potential inheritance.
However, in the weeks that follow, inheritance can become a pressing issue. Many people expect a certain level of inheritance; if this doesn’t materialize, then the entire situation can quickly devolve. It is a sad fact that arguments over inheritance can fracture families, especially if there is a suspicion that a loved one made decisions regarding their estate when they were not of sound mind.
If you find yourself in the above situation, there are no easy answers. You are dealing with grief, shock, disappointment, and potentially even fears for your financial future. After all, many people rely on a potential inheritance, and if this is not forthcoming, plans can be thrown into disarray.
Navigating this situation is incredibly complex but, below, we have sought to put together a simple guide to resolving the issue once and for all.
Seek to discover the cause
Wherever possible, discussing the matter with your family in a frank, open way is the best choice. This is the most important point, and should be the first point on your plan of action if you find yourself disagreeing with an inheritance. Wherever possible, try to be as non-combative as possible; raise the issue as a matter of concern, completely free of accusations.
You can simply state that you have been surprised by the inheritance you received, and ask if any other family members have experienced the same. This frames the discussion on the basis of the family as a group, experiencing the same difficulties, rather than pitting you against one another. There is every chance that everyone is surprised by the size of the inheritance received, potentially as they believed the departed was wealthier than it appears they actually were. It is important to ascertain, first and foremost, if this is the issue.
Moving the discussion on
If you are the only one who is surprised by their inheritance, then the process becomes trickier. It is always worth asking family members if they are willing to redress the balance, and transfer some of their own inheritance to you. The answer may be no, but if you have good reason to think you have a case – for example, you provided a large amount of care for the departed while they were still alive – then there is no harm in making the request.
If this tactic does not produce a satisfactory outcome, then you have two options – and neither are simple.
The first option is just to let the matter drop, accepting that things didn’t work out as you anticipated, and chalking it up to experience. If you are in a financial position to do this, then it may be the best decision; arguments over probate can, and do, destroy entire families.
However, if you genuinely feel aggrieved by your inheritance – or have financially planned in anticipation of receiving a larger sum – then letting the matter drop may not be an option. If you have explained your case to your family and they have refused to cooperate, then you may have to consider the legal route with help from Dave Burns Law Office LLC and similar specialists. This is not an easy step, and one that you should only enter into when you have exhausted all other options.
The ramifications of legal challenges
The simple truth is that disputing probate is likely to have serious implications for your relationship with your family. Often, this is justified; inheritance theft is a genuine issue, and it is impossible to rule out coercion of the departed. If these issues are at play, then it could be argued that your family dynamics have already suffered due to the actions of others.
However, some probate disputes are between families that, prior to this point, have gotten on well. Sometimes, the issue has been caused by the departed’s own choices; for example, favoring one child over others in others in their will. This isn’t necessarily the fault of the child who has benefited – there is every chance they didn’t know it would happen – and, sadly, the issue cannot be addressed with the person who made the decision. In these cases, the matter is far more delicate.
It is important to acknowledge that, even if you are justified and family relationships are otherwise positive, legal action will take its toll. Other family members may feel they need to take sides, which further complicates matters. It is also worth noting that this entire process tends to play out when people are struggling with grief, which can mean no one is thinking as calmly or rationally as they otherwise would.
Nevertheless, it is still worth pursuing legal action – if you have made a request to the family member who has benefited, and been turned down. You have been entirely reasonable in asking them to redress their imbalance; if they refuse to cooperate and see your side, then they leave you with few options. It is, however, vital that you understand the potential ramifications of such a choice – it’s still likely to be the right one for you, but do ensure you embark upon this process fully aware of the potential fallout.
Disputing probate is one of the most challenging, emotionally complex processes that a human being can experience. As a result, it is preferable to exhaust all other options prior to embarking on the process; but, at the same time, if these options are unsuccessful, pursuing legal action is an entirely justifiable choice. In many cases, probate is disputed not because a person was expecting a windfall and to get rich quick; instead, they are simply seeking for a balance to be redressed and fairness to be served.
If you find yourself in this situation, it is worth examining your options and talking to your family first and foremost. If the problem is not resolved, you always have the option of legal action. It is unlikely to be your first choice, and can be an arduous process in and of itself, but it can allow for a resolution that you find satisfactory. Good luck.