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Communication can reduce the risk of probate litigation

4/8/2016 | Kaplin Stewart Blog

Pennsylvania residents who have amassed a degree of wealth are usually excited at the prospect of being able to leave something of value to their children after they are gone. Structuring that inheritance, however, can be a tricky proposition, especially in cases in which the division of wealth will not be even. Families should take care to approach this subject carefully, with the goal of reducing the risk of probate litigation between surviving children.

Choosing to leave varying amounts to one’s children is not an uncommon path. Many times, adult children have chosen different paths and have differing needs. It might make sense to leave a child who is struggling a greater share of one’s estate than one who is thriving in his or her career. At times, one child will have more significant expenses due to raising a large family, while another has chosen to remain single and childless. In other cases, parents simply choose to reward the children who have made good life decisions over those who have faltered.

No matter the reason for the disparity in inheritance, it is imperative that the parents take the time to discuss the issue with their kids well in advance of those provisions being set into motion. Having a group meeting to discuss the matter is a good fit for some families. Others will choose to meet with each adult child individually to talk about inheritance plans and to provide a comfortable space for the child to express any questions or concerns.

This may not be a comfortable set of circumstances for Pennsylvania parents, but having these discussions now can greatly reduce the risk of sibling contention later. When one child feels that he or she has been unfairly excluded from a portion of an inheritance, probate litigation can follow. That can lead to lifelong resentments between brothers and sisters, which is an outcome that no parent wants to consider.

Source:, “Keeping the peace between adult children in your estate planning“, Nathaniel Sillin, March 24, 2016