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Idaho Estate Planning Dealing With Difficult Siblings After A Parent PAsses Away

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

It’s hard when a parent passes away. This situation becomes even more difficult when the surviving children, or siblings, don’t get along very well. To be clear, it doesn’t have to be a Knives Out situation like the movie in order for it to be a difficult situation for a family to deal with. On the other hand, any difficult relationships or hard feelings that already existed are often magnified when a parent passes away and the parent’s estate needs to be distributed. 

For more than 70 years, our premier team of Idaho estate planning and probate attorneys have assisted numerous clients and their families through the probate process in Idaho. The lawyers on our team consist of partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nathan Palmer and Dave Bagley. Each of the estate planning lawyers on our team have received the highest ratings for their ethics and legal abilities in helping their clients reach their goals. We know we can help you with all of your estate planning needs, regardless of whether you are in a traditional family, an individual, or part of a non-traditional couple. 

The purpose of this article is to discuss the things that can be done that help in dealing with difficult siblings after a parent passes away. While there is no magic that will turn a difficult sibling into a nice one, the suggestions listed below will help in making sure that the right things happen. 

Keep in mind that no article can provide all the details or answer all the questions that you likely have about this topic. It’s for this reason that we offer a free 30-minute consultation to discuss the probate process and to answer questions for an individual or group when a parent, family member or loved one passes away. We encourage you to contact us so your questions can be answered, and you can find a way to move forward with the things that need to be done. 

Follow the Parent’s Wishes Immediately

The first and most important advice that we can provide is that your parent’s wishes be followed immediately. Hopefully, your parent was prepared and worked to get their estate planning done which means they have a written last will and testament. When a written Will exists, this makes the process much easier. The reason for this is that Idaho law specifically requires that the intents and wishes of an individual set forth in a valid written Will must be followed. 

What often happens when a parent passes away is that family members will go to the parent’s house and simply begin taking things. However, when a written Will exists that names a specific person as the personal representative, that individual has a duty and responsibility to protect all the property of the estate and make sure that none of it disappears. 

For this reason, when a written Will exists we encourage the individual who is named as the personal representative to immediately begin the probate process so they can be appointed by a court through a written court order as the legal personal representative. 

If things have already disappeared before the person is appointed, that person then has the authority to require that those items be returned or that they at least be inventoried as part of the deceased parent’s estate. The personal representative can then keep an accounting of the property that was taken so that this will be charged against the inheritance the individual who took those items will ultimately receive. 

Once the personal representative is appointed by a court, their responsibilities again are to pay all of the deceased person’s debts, and then make distributions as instructed in the written Will. In this duty they don’t have any discretion. Rather, they are simply to carry out the wishes that are listed in the written Will. 

There is No Room for Secrets

Once the probate is begun, the next key advice we can provide in avoiding fights among siblings is to keep nothing secret. In other words, we encourage constant and thorough communication.

Ideally, when a parent passes away, we encourage the entire family to come to the law office as we describe the probate process to the individual who will be appointed as the personal representative. By doing this, the entire family can hear what their duties and responsibilities are. More importantly, the entire family can learn what the probate process is, what the steps are that are involved, and how long it takes to complete a probate. In this way, everyone understands what the probate process is and no one is left wondering why it is taking so long or why they don’t know when they will receive their inheritance or what that inheritance will be. 

Try to Avoid Sibling Rivalry

The final piece of advice that I offer to families is that they try to rein in any sibling rivalries that already exists. I found that during the probate process, after a parent passes away, sibling rivalries can easily be magnified. The most common reason for this again is lack of communication.

The second most common reason for this is when one sibling is favored over another by the parent in the written Will. When this happens, our team of expert probate attorneys work to help each child in the family understand what the written Will says, and the fact that the personal representative has no discretion but must follow those written intentions and wishes. 

However, if all the siblings agree that a distribution should be made to the siblings that’s different than what the parents listed in the written Will, this can be done through a process known as a TEDRA agreement. TEDRA is an acronym for the Trusts and Estates Dispute Resolution Act. 

If you’ve had a parent pass away recently and you are concerned about a dispute arising between the surviving siblings, we can help. We have assisted numerous families and clients through this process and we are confident that we can help you too!  

Enlist An Idaho Estate Planning Attorney To Help You

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free 30-minute consultation. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation. You can also email us directly at lane@racineolson.com or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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