Sometimes the most difficult part of probate is not the legal or financial issues but interacting with difficult family members. Long-held resentments between family members can surface as emotions run high after a loved one’s passing. When family members refuse to cooperate, or actively create delays, a legal case is one potential solution. But our client managed to avoid litigation when our office successfully navigated difficult family dynamics.
Our client was very close with his brother and became even closer to him in the years leading up to passing. The deceased brother lost his spouse several years earlier and had no children. Because the brother had no descendants, the three heirs to his estate was our client, a second brother and a niece. But it became apparent the probate process would be off to a rocky start when the niece refused to cooperate.
In our experience, uncertainty can evolve into a major dispute when an heir’s voice is not being heard or the person is excluded from the process. Heirs to an estate must have a certain trust in the personal representative to handle the estate finances according to the law. This was exactly the situation with the niece. The niece was an heir along with the two brothers because the niece’s own parents had passed away. Naturally, the niece was concerned that the brothers would exclude her from the estate or that she would receive less than what she was due.
Our office recognizes the importance of keeping other family members informed of the process and ensuring their voice is heard. In this situation, the niece initially hired her own attorney which came with predictable threats of litigation. Many threats of litigation can be avoided if both sides are acting in good faith and if counsel handles the situation properly.
The focus of the niece’s concern was the deceased brother/ uncle’s numerous rental properties. The niece was specifically concerned that the properties would be used to reduce her share through financial shell games. However, we helped diffuse the tense situation through careful negotiation with opposing counsel and inclusion in the probate process. One of the tools we used to include the opposing party was an informal accounting. Our good faith efforts caused the niece to drop her demands to be appointed as a co-administrator of the estate. In our client’s case, the probate process was soon resolved with all parties satisfied with the outcome.
It is always better to settle a dispute than to resolve a legal case if a reasonable agreement can be reached. It is certainly true that litigation is a must for certain matters. But where an out-of-court resolution makes sense, we help our clients resolve unnecessary disputes and avoid costly mistakes.
As a probate law firm for estate executors, we help settle estates efficiently and reduce stress. If you know someone faced with a probate process or roadblocks to an estate property sale, please have them contact us for a free evaluation at:
Phone: (215) 918-4242
If you are not quite ready for a consultation, download our complementary probate handbook HERE. We’ll send you helpful probate guides and resources so you know how to handle the estate.
Disclaimer: While we’re proud of our past victories, please note that past results are not indicative of future results and each case is unique.