Problem Source 1: Family Business Positions. A successful family business can be both a benefit and a burden for an estate plan, especially when children stand to inherit different responsibilities after a parent and head of the business dies. While decisions about managing the enterprise may seem like purely a business decision, children or relatives who feel left out can be a source of conflict.
Problem Source 2: Fighting Families. If a family is already distant or fighting before a wealthy or famous family member dies, the resulting conflict that arises over the estate can be particularly nasty. Take the example of the Huguette Clark estate. The multi-millionaire heiress died at the age of 104 in May of 2011, leaving no closer relatives than grand-half-nephews and grand-half-nieces, none of whom were close to her when she died. The battle over the estate has since gone through more twists and turns than a month’s worth of soap operas.
Problem Source 3: New Marriages. By far the most common source of estate litigation and conflicts is the confluence of families through a new marriage. When a new marriage forms between spouses who bring their own wealth and family issues to the table, it can result in a range of problems. Do the new spouses have estate plans that take into account each other’s possessions? Have they updated the plans after the second marriage? Are there children from the first marriage that need to be addressed in the plan, or children from the second? Or both? Any of these issues can cause problems if not properly addressed by both spouses.