Know the Circumstances that Lead to Estate Litigation

black and silver fountain pen on top of a written will

Mickey Rooney was one of Hollywood’s brightest stars from the1930s and 1940s, appearing in over 300 films that spanned vaudeville, films, television and Broadway. You could be forgiven if you thought money was the least of his troubles, but it was only the beginning.

In 2011, Rooney appeared before the US Senate to testify against financial abuse of the elderly. Rooney was 90 years old at that time, and he stated that his stepson and stepdaughter stole more than $2 million from the actor’s estate, which left him cash-strapped and scared.

Rooney had no choice but to resort to estate litigation to protect of what remained of his estate. His lawyers were able to get a restraining order against his stepson and recovered the money stolen from him. They also made it possible to appoint a conservator to manage the actor’s financial affairs.

Rooney was only one example of the many mistakes people make when planning their estate. Many are not as famous as Rooney but need as much help when it comes to issues to their estates. Here are the most common problems that might lead to estate litigation.

1. Inadequate Estate Planning

Some people think that writing a will is enough to clear up any questions regarding estate management and inheritance, but there are times when several versions of the will are presented. In many cases, the latest will is often the one that is followed and cancels all previous versions. But when there are significant changes and unusual bequests, then family members could challenge the will in court.

2. Lack of Communication

lawyer taking the will of an elderly man

Family squabbles are common, but some of them could escalate into serious conflicts when death, illness, and financial difficulties arise. Estate planning discussions early on could clear up many things, and they could agree to the division of the estate before the parents pass away.

Lawyers also explain that sons and daughters should know the contents of the will before their parents pass on, so they will not be surprised when the inevitable happens. When there is an unequal distribution of wealth and assets, beneficiaries should also consider what is best for the estate, especially when they are heirs to a business that they may not necessarily have an interest.

3. Complex Family Dynamics

Many families are blended, a combination of stepfathers, stepmothers, half-siblings, and even extended relations, from grandparents to long-lost cousins. However, these complex family relations could also spark conflicts when it comes to estates and inheritances.

Estate lawyers advise their clients to update their will when there are major changes in the family dynamics, such as births, divorce, marriage, adoption, and death. They also add that trusts should be reviewed every five years to make sure that the information is correct and updated. The best way to make sure that blended families don’t affect the estate’s proper distribution, you should hire someone outside of the family as a co-trustee.

Estate issues and inheritances are not limited to the rich and famous. Mickey Rooney is only one of many who had to go through the painful process of estate litigation. Many others are going through the same thing but are prevented from pursuing justice because of their own family.  Estate lawyers and consultants advise everyone to plan their estate vigilantly before everything is too late.