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Probate is complicated by sibling rivalry

Despite their best efforts at estate planning, some parents may create situations which stir up old animosities among their children. While many people hearing of sibling rivalry may think of small children squabbling over toys, those involved in the probate of an estate are often people in their 50s and 60s. Disputes over family assets may go deeper than the possession of material goods, even if brothers and sisters have no history of hostility.

Parents in Florida may divide their estates unevenly for various reasons. For example, sometimes one child stays close to the parents to care for them as they become ill or housebound, and the parent leaves that child a larger portion of the estate. Two scenarios may develop here. In the first, the siblings become jealous and accuse the favored child of unduly influencing their parent. In the second, the favored child may actually take advantage of the parent's trust and dependency to win a larger slice of pie.

Sometimes, parents divide their estates disproportionately because one child already has more than the others or another child needs more. Again, it is often not a matter of money, but rather the perceived preference of one child over the other. Parents can preempt some of this tension by discussing their plans with their children ahead of time.

If one sibling has been chosen to be the personal representative of the estate, he or she will need the help of a lawyer. Probate in Florida can be a long and complicated process, especially if one is facing the turmoil of emotional siblings, and an experienced attorney will work closely with an administrator to accomplish the task in an orderly manner. An attorney will guide the representative through the process, making sure he or she understands all the rights and responsibilities involved.

Source:, "Sibling rivalry in probate disputes", Patricia L. Davidson, Accessed on Jan. 27, 2017

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