After a loved one dies, there can be a surprising amount of details to address. And this can quickly become overwhelming, particularly when a person did not leave a valid, clear and comprehensive estate plan behind.
Under these circumstances, beneficiaries could be in for lengthy, contentious legal battles. Rather than resolving estate details in a matter of weeks, it could turn into months or years before parties find peace in resolutions.
Issues that trigger delays, disputes
Some legal issues are more common than others when it comes to those that hold up the process of administering an estate. Examples can include disputes regarding:
- Who is a beneficiary
- How to distribute property
- Who should make decisions
- Compensation for administration services
- Ownership rights
- Final arrangements
- Charitable gifts
These matters can trigger emotional, expensive disputes between creditors, beneficiaries, estranged family members and others with something at stake. Thus, having a current and valid estate plan can be crucial.
Fifteen years, a dozen lawsuits
As an example of how bad things can get when someone leaves more questions than answers behind, we can look at the case involving James Brown’s estate.
Fifteen years after the music legend’s death in 2006, family members were only recently able to close the book on administering his estate. For over a decade, parties filed more than a dozen lawsuits arguing over everything from handling his remains to whether he was legally married when he passed away.
Not only did the process strain personal relationships, but it also cost the estate money, much of which was supposed to be used to fulfill Brown’s charitable pursuits.
Leaving the legacy you deserve
Rather than leaving your loved ones to deal with expensive, combative issues after you pass away, you can simplify the administration process with your estate plan. To do this, consider:
- Working with an attorney to ensure your documents are valid
- Updating your plan regularly
- Properly setting up and funding trusts
- Identifying all assets and liabilities clearly
- Appointing trusted parties to decision-making positions
- Clarifying any intentional omissions
- Discussing your goals with your family and legal representative
Taking these steps can make it easier for your loved ones to navigate legal matters and challenges that could otherwise tarnish your legacy when you are gone.