Dynamics within a family can be complex and are often the result of years of interactions with one another. While a family's dysfunctional ways may be apparent to both those outside and inside the family, most families are able to manage their dysfunction to ensure relationships between family members remain relatively happy and peaceful. When a family is faced with the death of a loved one, however, particularly a patriarch or matriarch, harmless familial dysfunction can quickly give way to all out war.
Individuals who want to avoid fights over personal property and belongings upon their death would be wise to take steps to set up a comprehensive estate plan. A will can be used to dictate who gets what which can greatly benefit family members who may have otherwise haggled over sentimental artifacts.
While a will can definitely prevent an estate dispute from erupting, the contents therein may also provide grounds for a disgruntled relative to take legal action. A will contest may be filed by an heir who believes a loved one's will is invalid due to the individual’s lack of capacity or undue influence at the time the will was drafted.
To avoid possible disputes over a will’s directives, individuals are advised to make family members aware of the contents of a will. Doing so may be difficult, but it also allows an individual to clearly and explicitly state his or her wishes and avoid potential misinterpretations or hard feelings after one's passing.
Life is short and the passing of a loved one should serve as a reminder to those left behind to cherish loved ones and enjoy every moment. In cases where family members are not able to move past estate disputes, it's wise to seek legal advice.
Source: The Huffington Post, "How Making a Will Can Save Your Family From Fighting," Suzana Popovic-Montag and Ian M. Hull, Jan. 8, 2014