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Planning ahead can help avoid estate disputes

Many estate disputes happen simply because parents do not plan ahead and siblings do not know what their parents wanted. They're left to figure it out on their own. Naturally, they're going to disagree on some fairly big decisions -- maybe one wants to keep the family cabin, for instance, while another wants to sell.

The best way to avoid these disputes is simply to plan in advance. The most basic tactic is writing a will that spells out what you want. The siblings can then follow your instructions. Even when they don't agree with them personally, at least they will not be able to dispute your intentions.

Of course, that doesn't even work in every case. Maybe one sibling claims you didn't have the mental capacity to write the will, so they shouldn't follow it. The other says that you absolutely did and the will should stand. A dispute can still occur.

To help prevent this, it's wise to sit down with your family and talk over your plans and hopes in advance. Show them your will, tell them what you want, explain your choices and allow them to ask questions. You may be able to find potential dispute points and take care of them in advance. You also ensure that the siblings do not blame each other in some fashion, like claiming that the estate plan is a fake or that one person used undue influence on you near the end of your life.

Estate disputes are emotionally difficult and legally complicated. Those involved need to make sure they know their legal options.

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