Avoiding Inheritance Squabbles

Some of the extra money mom left me, she instructed me to do just that. She loved traveling with our family as the kids were growing up and did so until her cancer didn’t allow her to do it any longer. The trip was supposed to be happening now during the time between graduation and residency for my medical boy. We’re using a fraction for our two week stay on the St Lawrence. The rest has been invested and hopefully there will be a time again in a couple of years when we’ll all have at least a couple of weeks free together.

Where we are now was one of her favorite summer places to visit. H and I are staying in “her” bedroom. Two years ago (today) she was using it. It definitely seems fitting and I’m glad it worked out as a Plan B, even though I can get emotional if I let myself think about it too much.


A common approach in cases like this is a spendthrift trust.

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One of my children would take whatever he got from us and donate it to charity. (He did that already with his remaining college fund.) That is not the intent of any bequest we make to him. He is very generous with donating a percentage of his income, and I have no problem with that – but I want whatever we are able to leave our sons to stay in the family. We have worked darned hard to be able to do that.

If there are grandchildren, I suppose we could leave it in a trust for them and circumvent that issue.

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“Well, the more the parents have, the more the children expect/want” - Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It may depend on how comfortable the children are living on their own assets (?)


I dunno. Our S and D have not cashed several significant checks we have given them. They are happy with what they have and don’t seem to be expecting us to had them $$$$.

I agree with this. Usually the ugliest fights I see are over small estates. But the core of the fight is usually not about the money. Those core non-money issues transcend finances - wealthy and poor families can have them. Or not. Drugs, alcohol, abuse, gambling, disease, disability, tragedy, bad luck, treachery, jealousy, selfishness, intolerance, etc. aren’t dependent on bank balances, but can definitely impact how much a child feels entitled over another family member.


I just found out that a distant relative who has no children just gave away a valuable piece of property to charity. He has a niece who is in bad health and on Medicaid. Sorry, but charity begins at home.


I am thinking it would depend on his relationship to the niece. It is still his money to do as he likes even if there is a family member would really benefit from it. He also could have made the will years ago and never revisited it.

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In that case, it’s quite possible a judge might throw it out. That is what happened to H’s family when their elderly, childless aunt & uncle died (same day). The will left their money to their nieces & nephews. But because it hadn’t been updated in many years, the judge threw it out & awarded the money to next-of-kin. My FIL split the inheritance with his two brothers … but since they were deceased, the children of his brothers split each brother’s share. In the end, some nieces and nephews ended up with more than they would otherwise have received, and some received none (my H and his S). My FIL gifted some of it to H and SIL, but less than they would otherwise have received. I thought that was very odd, but it wasn’t my family. I just kept my mouth shut. H figured anything was better than nothing, and it was actually a very beneficial amount for us. Not sure how his S felt, but she must have been okay with it or I think she would have mentioned it at some point (it happened 20+ years ago).

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Wow… is that common for a judge to throw out an old will? Oh, maybe a new wife in the picture?

No! I’m wondering if there was a technical problem that rendered the will invalid. Age alone doesn’t invalidate a will.

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The story we heard was that because it was written in the 60’s and never revisited at any time before their deaths at end of 90’s, judge required it to be probated. No divorces or remarriages. This was in Illinois. My understanding was that it was a simple will, no trust (and it was over $1m, so maybe that factored into decision). Of course, we weren’t part of it, so who knows. I was really proud of H for appreciating what he got … I know so many people who have had fallings out with family over less.


I’d be really livid if any judge tossed out my will, as long as my intended recipients were alive, regardless of the age of it.

If there were a way to come back and haunt them in the afterlife, I’d definitely consider it. They have no right to assume I meant something different when I had things spelled out.


I think in some countries (France?) it is against the law to disinherit children (but not other relatives). While I see that this steps on the prerogative of the testator as a matter of public policy it does seem that no parent should disinherit a child who will need public assistance.

But, you say this is s a niece you’re talking about , not a child . I’m very close to both children but not particularly close to any nieces or nephews(from my husband). We are not at all estranged but see them rarely. My sister had no children . Perhaps the aunt and uncle thought a charity that could help many people was a better use of their resources than giving only to one niece . And the niece already had Medicaid so hopefully that is helping. It was their money after all.

I had zero problems with my mother’s 25 year old will (and also did use her 25 year old Medical POA to invoke LTC policy). There was no real estate involved, so I did not even need to involve lawyers… just paid the $198 county court fee to get a Letter of Testamentary. BUT my state of CO is known for easy probate, and my mother’s beneficiaries in the Will were me/executor and my sister… identical to what would have been defined by no-will laws.

I’ll repeat a reminder mentioned in other threads. You can name co-owners or beneficiaries or TOD (Transfer on Death) on most assets. Because my mother did a good job with that, most of my transactions were simple (only required providing Death Certificate). When there are many heirs, I can see where it might be better to have more assets flow through the Will or a Trust.

The only thing my father did right financially in his life was list beneficiaries (not ‘estate’) on the few policies and list my mother as co-owner on most accounts. I handled most things by telling people who I was (not executor, not trustee) and that we wanted to close accounts. If they squawked, I told them I didn’t really care if they didn’t want to deal with me but I was their best hope of closing things and getting back anything they needed.

There was one account at the back that wasn’t joint, but the bank used the funds in that to pay the credit card balance, and we didn’t have to probate anything.

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