I disagree that the recession is causing more cases. I have long observed two reasons why there are more people contesting wills now. The first reason is the changing make-up of the family and the second reason is that people live longer.
First is the changing make-up of the family that cause families to fight over family assets. In the past, mom would marry dad. They would have children. They would die and the children, all brothers and sisters, would settle the estates with very little arguing. Today, that situation is the exception rather than the rule. Now, mom marries dad. They have children. They get divorced. Dad remarries and has children with the new wife. Mom remarries a man who has children by another woman. Instead of brothers and sisters settling the estates, it is brothers, step brothers, half sisters and ex-spouses. Today’s family doesn’t have that blood bond that they had in the past. Their loyalties may go in many different directions.
Many times, a person doesn’t want to make a will because he or she has these extended families and doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. They may be closer to a step child than they are to their own children. The effect of not making a will is to hurt everyone’s feelings. When there is no will, there can be a free-for-all battle over the estate. Everyone involved can end up hating everyone else.
Just as only grandma or grandpa can get the family together for thanksgiving, they are the only ones who can hold the family together after their deaths by having a will so there will be no fighting. While there can still be a fight over assets if there is a will, a fight is almost guaranteed if there is no will or if there is a poorly drafted one. Trying to make your own will leads to disasters in these situations. I think that it is rare for a person to make their own will without making mistakes. Since wills have to me made and executed within strict guidelines, you should always let an attorney handle the will preparation.
Second, people live longer. It is not unusual for aunt Jane or grandmother Nell to be living in a nursing home or assisted living center in the old home town while most of the family lives in larger cities. There are always people ready to prey on the elderly and once they find out the the elderly person only sees family occasionally, they are ready to move and take over the care of the old person with the objective of getting all or most of their assets. I have written on the financial abuse of the elderly in another post.
We don’t prepare wills so this is not a plea to come in and hire us to prepare your will. Rather, it is a plea to make less work for us by avoiding a contested probate case. Make a will and keep it up to date!
UPDATE: The Minnesota Public Radio website referenced this article in their article about probate in this recession. One of the things that they said caught my attention. That is that “Money, death and human emotion typically don’t do well together but all three are in the room in probate, the process of settling a dead person’s estate, paying bills and distributing any assets.” Probate is not unlike a divorce. Emotions are high, everyone is thinking of their own interest and nobody wants to be left with less than the others. And that’s in a non contested probate matter! Imagine the emotions in a contested probate case! Avoid contested probate if you can and you can go a long way in accomplishing that goal by having an attorney review your situation and prepare a will for you.
The foregoing information is general in nature and does not apply to every fact situation. If you are concerned about inheritance laws, have an inheritance dispute, a property dispute or want information about contesting a will, we can help. Please go to our main site www.theprobate.net and use the contact form to contact us today. We would love to learn about your case and there is no fee for the initial consultation.