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Greed and Conflict Among Siblings in Inheritance Matters


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  • Greed and Conflict Among Siblings in Inheritance Matters

Your siblings may not act the way you expected after your mom or dad passes away. Fights about money and estate assets are very common among siblings after a parent’s death.

Greed can make beneficiaries behave in strange ways. It’s one thing for siblings to insist on their fair share of estate assets; it’s quite another to be locked in battle with a greedy sibling who is trying to get more of an inheritance than they’re entitled to.

While legal action after your parent’s death may not be what you want, it’s sometimes necessary to protect your inheritance rights. If you find yourself in a dispute with a greedy sibling or other greedy family members, contact an estate lawyer at Onyx Law Group for legal guidance. We offer expert assistance on safeguarding your rightful inheritance and resolving estate disputes among siblings.

This article will discuss inheritance greed—why it happens, warning signs and common scenarios to look out for, strategies to manage conflict with greedy siblings, and legal remedies for dealing with disputes after a parent’s death.

The Roots of Inheritance Greed Among Siblings

The Roots of Inheritance Greed Among Siblings

Family dynamics tend to be very complex. Relationships get even more complicated when money issues and valuable property are thrown into the equation. The roots of sibling inheritance disputes may extend back to childhood, or they may arise from more recent relationship issues.

There are several factors that can increase the likelihood of inheritance disputes among siblings:

· Sibling rivalry, jealousy, resentment, grudges, and unresolved past conflicts (real or perceived) among siblings

· A parent who encourages competition among siblings or shows favoritism to one child over other children

· Estrangement from a parent, brother, or sister

· Unequal treatment of siblings in the Will or outright disinheritance of a child or children by a parent

· Blended families or second marriages involving children and stepchildren

· Beneficiaries in dire financial need, or large disparity in financial affairs among siblings

· Mental illness or substance abuse issues (drug or alcohol addiction)

Whatever the root cause(s), the emotional and financial stakes are high. If not handled well, inheritance disputes can lead to long-lasting relationship damage.

Common Scenarios Involving Inheritance Greedy Siblings

Common Scenarios Involving Inheritance Greedy Siblings

Inheritance disputes over a parent’s estate often take beneficiaries by surprise, but there are warning signs and behaviors to look out for. Here are some common scenarios that lead to estate fights and lawsuits after a parent’s death.

1.       Undue influence or manipulation by one sibling

Undue influence involves situations where one person uses power over another person to his or her own benefit. For example, one sibling may take over the role of caregiver for a sick or elderly parent. One sibling may move into the parent’s home and begin to isolate the parent from the other siblings. A sibling may use threats, tricks, or other abusive tactics to convince their parent to change his or her estate plan in their favor, give them more money, add their name as a joint holder of bank accounts, or transfer property to their name.

2.      One sibling abuses a Power of Attorney

It’s common for parents to execute Powers of Attorney appointing adult children to help with banking or business interests as they age or to take over their financial affairs should they lose mental capacity. A person named as Power of Attorney owes a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the person who appointed them. Unfortunately, a greedy sibling may misuse the power given to them (e.g., misappropriating funds, or transferring the parent’s property to themselves or their spouse at less than fair market value).

3.      Sibling stealing from parent or parent’s estate

Inheritance theft or “inheritance hijacking” occurs when a person steals the assets, property, or funds allocated to someone else in a Will or trust. A greedy sibling may steal valuable property, art, jewelry, family heirlooms, or money during a parent’s lifetime or immediately after a parent’s death before an official inventory of estate assets has been completed. Or a greedy sibling who is appointed executor of the parent’s estate may misappropriate estate funds in breach of their fiduciary duty to not use assets for their own interest.

Case Study for Inheritance Greedy Siblings

One specific case of inheritance disputes is the Grewal v. Litt case. In this case, the court dealt with an inheritance that was not distributed equally among siblings. The parents left a larger portion of their estate to their sons, based on their cultural values which traditionally favored sons over daughters.

However, the case was revisited and the court decided to increase the daughters’ share of the inheritance, considering factors such as the daughters’ contributions to the care of their parents in their later years, and the lifetime gifts and benefits received by the sons.

Strategies to Manage Conflict with Greedy Siblings

Strategies to Manage Conflict with Greedy Siblings

There are ways to manage conflict with greedy siblings. If there are red flags or warning signs when your parent is still alive, your parent can work with an estate planning lawyer to protect assets, smooth tensions, and ensure their final wishes are clear. There are so many estate planning options. For example, your parent can:

·         set up trusts to manage property and prevent assets from depletion by a greedy sibling;

·         prepare legal documents evidencing their intention with respect to their estate (e.g., carefully clarifying reasons for unequal treatment of siblings in their Will); and/or

·         appoint neutral friends or relatives or a professional trustee to act as their Power of Attorney during their life or as executor during the probate process.

If the conflict arises after your parent’s death, calm communication and clear boundaries are essential. A frank discussion among siblings about expectations and concerns can go a long way to eliminating confusion, mending hurt feelings, and easing tensions.

Of course, dealing with greedy family members one-on-one may not be possible or preferable. Not everyone is willing or able to act reasonably. In those situations, legal help is strongly recommended. An experienced estate lawyer can facilitate constructive conversations among siblings and use negotiation and mediation techniques to resolve inheritance conflicts. Your estate lawyer can also help you understand your inheritance rights and explain the legal remedies available to you should court proceedings be necessary.

Legal Remedies for Dealing with Sibling Greed

Legal Remedies for Dealing with Sibling Greed

In BC, the distribution of an estate is primarily governed by the Wills, Estates, and Succession Act. This law outlines how assets should be allocated if a valid will is present and the procedures if someone dies intestate (without a will).

Most legal systems will respect the right of an individual to decide how their assets should be distributed after death which is known as testamentary freedom. However, this freedom is not absolute and can be overridden to address fairness concerns.

Adequate provision is also mandated for the deceased’s dependents to prevent financial hardship and potential destitution of the deceased’s spouse, children, or dependent relatives. That being said, inheritance laws also include mechanisms to challenge a will that might have been the result of fraud, coercion, or undue influence. This helps ensure that the distribution of the estate truly reflects the wishes of the deceased.

The Role of a Will in Dealing with Sibling Greed

A will is crucial as it directs the distribution of the estate according to the deceased’s wishes. Executors play a vital role in ensuring that the will’s directives are followed, but disputes can arise when the contents of the will are contested or unclear. Inheritance disputes are a common issue in families, particularly when substantial assets are at stake, so it’s best to write your wills so that your estate can be divided as per your wishes.

A will is crucial as it directs the distribution of the estate according to the deceased’s wishes. Executors play a vital role in ensuring that the will’s directives are followed, but disputes can arise when the contents of the will are contested or unclear.

Greedy siblings will attempt to dispute a will as soon as the reading of the will is complete. If you notice suspicious behavior or are facing a dispute with your siblings after your parent’s death, reach out to a skilled estate attorney as soon as possible.

The legal remedies open to you will depend on the circumstances and the issue(s) at stake. Here are some potential options to ensure you receive a fair inheritance:

  • A Will or gift made during your parent’s lifetime that was the product of undue influence by a greedy sibling can be challenged and set aside.
  • A Will or gift made by a parent who lacked mental capacity can be challenged and set aside. Medical records are often needed to do so (e.g., medical records indicating that your parent was suffering from dementia or delusions to the extent that they could not understand their actions).
  • A lawsuit can be brought to have misappropriated property or funds returned to your parent’s estate.
  • A sibling who is disinherited or treated unfairly can bring a will variation claim to have their parent’s Will altered in their favor.
  • Court proceedings can be brought to remove a sibling from acting as executor of your parent’s estate (e.g., sibling stealing from the estate while acting as executor).

Preventative Measures for a Peaceful Inheritance Process

Preventative Measures for a Peaceful Inheritance Process

No one really wants to end up in a bitter lawsuit with their siblings or family members, and there are few parents who would truly want their children to have to face off against each other over an inheritance. Above, we discussed options for a parent’s estate plan that can reduce conflict and streamline the inheritance process, including establishing trusts, selecting neutral attorneys and estate executors, and clearly documenting intentions/last wishes.

Transparency about their estate plan can also prevent sibling conflict down the road. Parents may want to call a family meeting to explain their estate plan so there are no surprises or confusion after their death. This allows adult children to understand their parents’ wishes, clarify misunderstandings, and make appropriate plans for their own future.

Should you find yourself in a dispute with a greedy sibling after your parent has died, it does not mean it can’t still be a relatively peaceful inheritance process. Be proactive and address issues before they spiral out of control. An experienced estate lawyer can de-escalate conflict and help keep the focus on the legal issues and letter of the law, instead of getting bogged down in personal disputes and animosity.

Legal Help to Protect Your Fair Inheritance

Greedy siblings can make a parent’s death that much more painful. The emotional and financial stakes are high. Legal action can place a significant strain on family relationships. There are important time limits for contesting a Will in BC, and there are various rules and procedures to follow that make the legal process daunting.

Legal guidance is strongly recommended if you find yourself in a dispute with siblings following your parent’s death. Our team of experienced estate litigators can help. An attorney at Onyx Law Group can help you evaluate your legal rights and options and the strength of the claim—whether it’s your claim, or a claim being brought by your sibling(s). We can also provide legal guidance on alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, to reach a fair and amicable resolution of legal matters while preserving family relationships as much as possible.

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