Many parents do not talk about estate planning with their children. Even so, the children may have certain things that they expect or that they have been counting on.
As such, when the estate plan includes significant surprises, it can often lead to disputes. The plan simply does not match up with their expectations, even if those expectations were never grounded in reality.
For instance, the children may have assumed that all assets would get split between them. However, when the will comes out, the estate also goes to a local charity, the parents’ church and a caregiver who was with the parents for the last year of their lives.
These are not illegal bequests, and they may perfectly align with a parent’s values, but they are unexpected for the children. When they feel blindsided, the kids may be more likely to fight over the distribution, feeling like they are losing something that belongs to them.
Another surprise could be a disinheritance. A child may have always assumed that they would be in the will, despite not talking to the parents in years. However, the parents may have cut off contact and cut that child out of the will, leaving everything to other siblings or a charity.
Again, that child may contest the will because or she feels like something was “stolen.” The truth is just that expectations and reality were never the same.
These cases can grow very complex and may be highly emotional. It is important for everyone involved to understand all of their legal rights and the steps they must take.