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Three Ways to Avoid Conflict With Family During Probate

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

In my opinion, one of the best services that we offer to clients is a free 30-minute consultation to discuss the probate process and the steps involved in completing a probate for a family member or loved one who has passed away. At the end of this consultation, I explain to our clients with the cost of a probate would be by giving them a range. I then add a plus sign at the end of the amounts I write down. I explain to my clients that the reason I do this is because there are some things that we do not have control over which could cause a probate to be much more expensive than it normally would. The main thing that we do not have control over is family fights. In other words, we cannot control whether family members choose to contest, or dispute, or fight during the probate process over the money, property, and other assets that are part of the estate.

When it comes to probate, the premier Idaho estate planning Attorneys at the Racine law office provide invaluable help and services to each client and helping them complete a probate after a family member or loved one has passed away. We understand that you are not an expert when it comes to probate. For this reason, we use our expertise to guide you through the process and to make sure that every step in the probate process is completed correctly. Our team of skilled and experienced attorneys includes partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nate Palmer and Dave Bagley. Each of our attorneys have assisted clients through numerous probates. Additionally, we have each worked with families to help resolve family disputes or fights during the probate process.

The purpose of this article is to give you some ideas of things you can do to avoid conflict with your family members during the probate process. The purpose of this article is to help you understand that in our experience, a little planning up front can help avoid a lot of conflict and heartache in the end. Additionally, keeping communication open with each family member often resolves conflicts before they even arise. Finally, we have come to learn that even in the best of circumstances, frail emotions can often lead to difficult confrontations. A wise person would simply be gracious and forgiving towards each of their family members.

1. Avoid Conflict Through Good Estate Planning Documents

So how could having good estate planning documents help you avoid conflict? This is a good question and it has a great answer. If estate planning documents are done correctly, they can help you avoid almost all conflict with family members after you have passed away.

The basic estate planning documents that each person should have that will be applicable after you pass away is a last will and testament. You may also have a trust but for the purposes of this article we will focus on just your will.

In your will, you have the ability to do several things. First of all, you get to choose who will be your personal representative. It is always wisest to choose a personal representative that you believe will help avoid conflicts or be able to resolve conflicts if they arise. This may not be your oldest child, or it may not even be a family member at all. Rather, perhaps a close family friend would be the best person to choose because of their ability to help avoid conflict within your family.

In addition to choosing a personal representative you also have the ability to decide who your estate will be distributed to. In your last will and testament, you get to name individuals who will receive specific items from you. You also have the ability of naming individuals who will be heirs to the rest of your estate either by percentages or by specific dollar amounts. However, you decide to do it, you are the one who is in control. As a result, if there is any anger or ill feelings That come up, they will be directed to you rather than to other living family members.

If you do not have a last will and testament, then the laws of intestacy apply. In this instance, any of your family members can choose to petition the court to be your personal representative. As a result, your family may not agree about who it should be and they fight about who should be appointed. Additionally, if you do not have a last will and testament your estate will be distributed based on the statutes. In this way, you have no control over who will receive your specific money and property and other assets. This also could lead to a family fight.

So, as you can see, the main way that you can help avoid family disputes and fight is by having a well-written last will and testament. When this occurs, most family fights are ended before they can even begin.

2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

The next most important thing that can happen during the probate process is communication between family members. Specifically, whoever is appointed as a personal representative should work to keep communication open with all other family members about the steps that are being completed in the probate process. By keeping communication open, there is less room for misunderstandings, or for hard feelings.

Communication is accomplished in several different ways. First of all, the personal representative should deliver to each family member the required paperwork. This would include all notices, information to the errors and other family members, inventories of the estate, and accountings of the expenses and distributions that are being made in the estate.

Additionally, the personal representative could and should send out regular emails, or have phone conferences, or hold a family meeting where additional questions can be answered, and information given to all the other family members about what’s being accomplished.

3. Be Gracious and Forgiving

The final suggestion that can be made to each family that will help them avoid conflicts during the probate process is to be gracious and forgiving with each other. When a family member passes away, it’s very common for there to be frail emotions. this is sometimes coupled with fatigue and exhaustion that could be physical, mental and/or emotional. In this state, people are prone to saying or doing things that they normally would not say or do. Because of this, in the first family meeting where we discussed the probate process, we suggest that every family member be gracious and forgiving with each other during this process.

When done correctly, estate planning should help bring a family together when a loved one passes away. This truly can be accomplished when the estate planning documents are done well, when the family continues to communicate with each other, and when the family members are all gracious and forgiving with each other.

The premier Idaho estate planning attorneys in our firm have assisted client with numerous probates. If you have questions about the probate process, 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 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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