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Family disputes break out when wills exclude heirs

When a loved one passes away, it is typically an emotional time. What can make this event even more stressful? When there are disputes over the wills. The death of a family member is not the time to be greedy, but unfortunately, there are instances in which a will divides not only a person's estate but his or her family as well.

Inheritance issues occur when a person expects to inherit money or other assets but is disinherited in the will. Disinheritances are not very common -- even in New York and the rest of the United States -- so when a child, grandchild or other close family member is intentionally left out of a will, this should raise a red flag. This is especially true if the family members had a loving relationship with no major concerns.

What could cause a person to become disinherited? The two main reasons are undue influence from other parties and incapacity. Even when a person suffers from Alzheimer's disease or dementia, the person may have moments where he or she is of a clear state of mind and able to create and sign a will. Then the person may be persuaded to make changes to it by a family member looking to get more assets.

For the most part, a will should show an equal distribution of property among children or grandchildren unless there are extreme issues involved such as addiction or horrible money management skills. Even in those situations, a person can create a trust or some other type of setup that allows the heir to receive only small amounts of the money at various times.

If a person feels that he or she is receiving an unequal inheritance for no reason, he or she can contest it. However, prepare for a costly and lengthy legal battle -- as well as a nasty dispute that can split a family apart for good.

Source: The New York Times, "When a Will Divides an Estate, and Also Divides a Family" Paul Sullivan, Jun. 20, 2014

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