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Poor planning leads to estate litigation

Even the best laid plans can go awry, and this is never more true than when it comes to estate plans. Often, parents leave a will or other arrangements, believing they have provided well for their children. However, the death of a parent is a common event that sometimes stirs up latent hostility among family members, especially if the estate plan is flimsy or ill-advised. When this happens, heirs may settle their disputes through estate litigation.

While only about 51 percent of those in British Columbia and across Canada have executed wills, only a small portion of those wills are current and relevant. Having an outdated estate plan may create as much havoc and confusion as no will at all. However, parents think they are fairly dividing their estate by leaving unequal portions, but this is one of the most common reasons for estate litigation.

Heirs may also dispute an inequitable division of assets when parents leave a larger portion to a child who has helped them more in their later years. When parents do this secretly, it gives rise to accusations of undue influence or other factors that, if proved, may invalidate a will. On the other hand, a family business divided equally among children may be disastrous, especially if some children are not actively involved in operating the business.

A common refrain of advisors for avoiding estate litigation is to have frank discussions between parents and children during the planning stages. Nonetheless, when British Columbia heirs find themselves pitted against each other because of poor estate planning, it is wise to have legal counsel. A skilled lawyer can help protect one's rights.

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