Help! My Siblings Are Fighting About Money & Property
Oct. 27, 2022
The loss of a parent is a time of great emotional stress with many ups and downs, including anger, sorrow, and denial. The loss can also lead to bickering and even sibling disputes and rivalries when it comes time for the estate to be settled.
Conflict can set in for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the parent didn’t leave a will, or the will seemed to favor one child disproportionately. Maybe the will was revised right before the parent’s death, leaving questions if someone unduly influenced the revision.
If you see your siblings fighting over the estate, what can you do? What are your options for resolving the situation? The answers, of course, depend largely on why the conflict appeared in the first place.
Your best option, regardless of the causes of the infighting, is to seek practiced help through the advice and knowledge of an experienced probate attorney, one who is familiar with the administration and distribution of estates following a loved one’s death – and who is also familiar in dealing with competing sibling interests.
If you’ve lost a parent in or around Dayton, Ohio, and family bickering has set in, contact us at StachlerHarmon Attorneys at Law immediately. With more than 25 years of experience, our legal team will be able to help you approach the situation from both a legal and personal standpoint to work toward a solution acceptable to all involved.
At our firm, StachlerHarmon Attorneys at Law, we proudly serve clients in Warren and throughout the counties of Greene, Clark, Miamisburg, Butler, and Preble, Ohio.
Common Reasons for Sibling Fighting Over an Inheritance
When a parent passes away, long-festering sibling rivalries may assert themselves when it comes time to administer the estate. Or perhaps, the details of how the estate is to be divided – through the terms of a will, a trust, or a court decision – may ruffle some feathers. One or more siblings may feel they are being treated unequally or unfairly.
One sibling may feel that a treasured heirloom is going to the wrong child. Another may question why a sister or brother is getting so much in cash assets when they are left with very little.
As mentioned earlier, there may have been a late revision to the document that seems to favor one child over another. In addition, if it’s a blended family, children from a previous marriage may object to the terms of inheritance, being either left out or underappreciated in their viewpoint.
Perhaps the worst-case scenario unfolds when the parent leaves no will or estate planning document. Siblings may start grabbing whatever assets they can get their hands on, but in this case – when a person dies intestate or without a will – the state will decide who gets what. This division is carried out under what is called the state’s intestate succession laws.
Intestate Succession: Who Gets What if There’s No Will or Trust
Under Ohio’s statutes regarding intestate succession – the distribution of assets when the decedent leaves no will or trust – the inheritance is straightforward if there is only a spouse and no descendants or if there are only children and no spouse.
If there are no descendants or parents, the spouse receives everything. Likewise, if there are children but no spouse, the children are given everything. Of course, even if they are given equal shares, they can still bicker.
If there is a spouse and children from the current marriage only, then the spouse gets everything, and the children wait until that spouse passes on to receive anything. If there is one child from a previous marriage but not the current one, the spouse gets $20,000 plus one-half of what remains.
However, if there is more than one child and the spouse is the parent or adoptive parent of at least one child from a previous marriage, then the spouse gets $60,000 plus one-third of the balance. The descendants get everything else.
Preventing or Dealing With Sibling Squabbles
It is always essential to put in place an estate plan because if a parent passes away without a will or trust in place, the state will step in.
Using the rules of intestate succession, the local probate court will divvy everything up – but this doesn’t mean everyone will be happy. Usually, it’s the opposite. The spouse, if they get everything, might be satisfied, but the children may feel left out or cheated.
Therefore as a parent, the critical first step to avoid sibling infighting after passing on is to have a solid estate plan. It’s also a good idea to discuss this estate plan with everyone involved, so there are no surprises when it comes time to distribute your estate among your heirs.
A will requires you to name a personal representative who will administer your estate when you’re gone. Likewise, a trust requires the designation of a successor trustee to administer everything after you’re gone.
The bottom line here is to rely on the legal expertise of an experienced estate planning attorney when you sit down to create legal documents to care for your loved ones when you’re gone. The more concrete, comprehensive, and clear your estate plan, the better the odds of preventing sibling squabbles after you’re gone.
The same can be said if you as a child of the deceased are now caught in the middle of a sibling conflict over the inheritance. You’re going to need professional help. An experienced estate planning/probate attorney can assist in taking care of all legal quandaries that surface, including a challenge by one or siblings to the legality of the will.
An understanding attorney can also come to the aid of the executor of the will or the trustee of the estate when legal questions or disputes start to slow down the inheritance process.
Don’t Face These Challenges Alone
It's been said that you can never be too young or too old to create an estate plan, but you can be too late. Therefore, as a parent, you need to plan carefully and with equal consideration for all your loved ones and create an estate plan that expresses your wishes and honors the needs and desires of your family members and descendants.
As a child who’s just lost a parent and sibling differences are threatening the fulfillment of your parent’s wishes, you also need to seek the professional help of an attorney experienced in estate planning and the probate/trust distribution process. There’s only so much you can do on your own, and sometimes efforts may even backfire.
If you’re facing sibling discord over inheritances following the death of a parent in Dayton, Warren, Greene County, Clark County, Miamisburg, Butler County, or Preble County, Ohio, contact StachlerHarmon Attorneys at Law immediately. We can help resolve disputes and deal with any legal issues that may arise during the bickering. Don’t let matters fester to the point that bad feelings carry over far into the future, reach out today.