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Probate litigation is common between stepmothers and stepchildren

It may not be a popularly known phenomenon, but in Ohio and elsewhere there is a propensity toward probate disputes between stepmothers and their stepchildren. Indeed, the source of such probate litigation may likely be innately tied to the bitter emotional distrust that can develop in such relationships in many families. Stepfather disputes are a little less common than those with stepmothers, but this may simply be due to more abundant numbers of elderly stepmothers who live longer than stepfathers.

Studies verify that there are not generally warm and fuzzy feelings and relationships between stepparents and stepchildren. There are some tell-tale signs that may be observed as a predictor of future disputes. Lopsided estate distributions set forth in the decedent's will can be a major source of probate litigation. A disproportional distribution may be an obvious stimulator of hard feelings and a stoking of long-lived rivalries.

Where there are short-term marriages, an estate dispute may be engendered naturally from the dynamics involved. Short marriages are also a companion to some cases of undue influence. The preparing of new estate plans in the testator's last days, usually involving the changing of beneficiaries, is a sure-fire spark to ignite a probate dispute. 

Where the stepmother has natural children of her own, she will tend to fight for their rights over the decedent's natural children. Favoritism by the father, extracted by pressures from the stepmother, can explode into family turmoil immediately after the father's death. Arguments over burial locations, cremation vs. burial, and similar options can inflate into red-hot arguments.

In Ohio, these patterns exist just as often as they do in other locations. The pattern of stepmother and stepchildren disputes is virtually a universal human trait, at least while many humans still subscribe to the emotional dictates of their instincts over the more idealistic values of love and equality in family life. An experienced probate attorney who has handled probate litigation over an extended number of years will be eminently prepared to guide the client in a direction that will save costs and time through reasonable strategies for making appropriate and reasonable choices.

Source: Forbes, "Stepmothers: The Cause Of So Many Estate Fights", Michael Hackard, Jan. 23, 2018

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