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Family Discord in Probate

Why do we often find family discord in Probate? The short answers are unmet expectations and a lack of communication, and often both apply.

Many people think they “know” what a deceased person’s wishes are and then they can be taken by surprise when they discover a Will says something different, or worse, a person dies without a Will.

Caregivers, especially if they are children, might expect preferential treatment. The bottom line is the fact that someone’s Will controls what happens to their property when they die – a person can say what they like during their lifetime but if their Will doesn’t have it in writing all bets are off, as the saying goes.

One of the easiest ways to prevent and manage discord is communication. If you’re an executor, it’s critical to keep all of the estate beneficiaries informed as to what’s happening during the administration of the estate. An easy way to do this is a simple memo you can mail or email to everyone approximately every other month letting them know what’s happening. It can be very simple – let people know what’s happening with the house, or if you met with the attorney, or if you filed a tax return or are waiting for something, like the closing of an account. Otherwise, the beneficiaries won’t know what you’re doing, and that lack of information can lead to worry, which in turn, leads to frustration and anger. Even if you think the topics are mundane, let beneficiaries know what is happening.