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Sibling contentions over parental estate plans

A New York resident might seek information about a parent's estate plan through legal avenues, but this could be extremely unproductive. A parent cannot be sued for simply creating an estate plan. In addition to increasing family tensions by suing a parent or their representative, this could provide information to others in the family about intentions with regard to legal battles after that parent expires. A parent is not legally bound to leave their estate to children or grandchildren. The only legal obligation is to a spouse.

A family member who believes that they have been unfairly omitted from a will or trust might contest the validity of the estate plan based on the possibility that a different sibling has exercised unfair influence over that parent during their life. Trust assets may be somewhat more protected because this type of estate plan typically avoids the subjection of included assets to probate. However, a legal challenge might still arise if there is an appearance of another sibling manipulating the situation.

A parent who clearly wants to leave a lesser amount of money to one or more children than to another might want to make an expression of these wishes and their reasoning clear in their end-of-life documents. A lawyer could also coordinate a meeting with all siblings to go over the plans in the presence of the parent to ensure that there is an understanding of these wishes and the reasoning behind them. If relationships are strained, however, this might not be feasible.

In ensuring that one's wishes will be honored, it may be important to select an impartial trustee to oversee the distribution of assets. Also, reliable legal counsel could be important for ensuring that potential disputes over trust can be addressed clearly. Failure to legally execute any of the documents related to the matter could leave an estate otherwise vulnerable.

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