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After the death of a loved one, it can be a difficult time for many surviving family members. You may find yourself often reminiscing about the good times you shared with your loved one and likely also hoping that he or she left you some type of property as part of the estate plan that can give you a personal asset to hold onto for sentimental reasons.

While you may feel fine with receiving a small item, other individuals may not feel as content with such an outcome. In fact, family disputes over the contents of a will commonly take place during the probate proceedings. As a result, many inheritances can dwindle due to the need to cover litigation costs and other expenses.

Reasons for issues

Many reasons for conflict can arise, and the details of a particular estate and the exact family relationships can also affect what could cause problems. Some family factors that many legal and financial professionals have seen cause issues include the following:

  • Complications with stepparents or stepchildren
  • Expectations for more of an inheritance than actually given
  • Issues with children from different marriages
  • Confusion about how much an inheritance a person should receive
  • Problems when one spouse is much younger than the other

Of course, a number of other aspects could also lead to conflicts, depending on the specific details of a case, estate and family.

Intestate issues

Another problem that could arise relates to settling an estate that does not have a plan. When this happens, asset distribution will have to follow California state intestate laws, which may mean that the state splits assets evenly among surviving family members. Of course, this type of situation may not be entirely fair, as fairness and equality do not always go hand in hand.

Lack of communication

Issues can also come about if an estate plan does exist but surviving family members have little knowledge of its contents. You may think that your loved one wanted the estate settled in a certain way only to find that the contents of the will express other wishes. This issue could also lead parties into thinking that they should have received more of an inheritance than the will dictates.

If a problem arises during the probate process, litigation could take place. This type of event can be complicated, and you may find yourself having to fight for your inheritance or to protect the estate. If so, you may find it beneficial to have a legal professional on your side.