The Three Main Causes of Conflict in an Estate Settlement and What to do About Them
Most attorneys believe that the majority of problems related to dividing an estate should be solved outside of the courtroom – in other words, prevented. In a sense, if you discuss this subject with those who counsel individuals over personal family matters such as arguments and conflicts that arise from the process of settling an estate, the usual response is that most people could solve their own relationship problems without attorneys if they would just listen to one another, communicate and practice the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Throughout the book: THE SETTLEMENT GAME: How to Settle an Estate Peacefully and Fairly, many possibilities for sources of conflict are outlined and discussed. Among these, three sources stand out as the main causes of conflict. Following is a brief summary of each, with an overview of what to do about them to help avoid family discord.
1. Many of the problems that arise at the time of a division or settlement of an estate are caused by the interference from spouses or children of the heirs, not the immediate heirs themselves. In any discussion with people who have been through conflict in their family during the division process, this interference usually comes up. If you think about stories you have heard from people on this topic, there is usually a reference to someone “once removed” from being an immediate heir who created the tension which led to problems. This is often someone who wants something – but who is not an immediate heir – only related to one. That is not to say that such a person does not care about the family. It is likely that in most cases this is done unintentionally. Yet, a request from someone closely related to one of the heirs often becomes a major source of conflict. How to avoid conflict from such:
Rule # 1 - Only immediate heirs should be involved in the division process during the settlement of the estate. All outside influences, such as spouses, children, in-laws, grandchildren, and friends should NOT participate, especially at the beginning of the process.
2. A second major cause of conflict comes from the early removal of items from the home place or estate, without the overall consent and approval of all other heirs. Once in a while you will hear of one of the heirs who simply goes in ahead of time and takes what they want – almost spitefully – or perhaps with the idea of getting it out before anyone notices it is gone. However, usually this type of act is innocently done, thinking that this is acceptable since they have justified it to themselves for some “good” reason. How to avoid conflict from such:
Rule # 2 – Do not remove anything from the home or premises prior to the division process. If common sense requires such for safe-keeping, make sure all heirs agree.
3. The age-old question remains: “What causes conflicts in estate settlements more than anything else?” Most experts would agree that personality differences are a primary cause of conflict during the division process of an estate settlement. Without understanding these differences, keeping the peace and avoiding conflict will be much more difficult to accomplish.
How to avoid conflict from such:
Rule # 3 – Try to gain an understanding of the personality types of the other heirs involved. It is important to understand the basic traits of each person involved, and the best way in which to communicate with that personality style. By doing this, many conflicts can be avoided that would otherwise have developed because of simple misunderstandings among heirs. (Highly Recommended Reading: Positive Personality Profiles, by Dr. Robert Rohm.) This and other related books and personality assessment tools can be found at: http://www.thesettlementgame.com.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angie Epting Morris has worked as a professional cartographer, a high school teacher of English and Geography and has owned a retail travel agency including a state accredited school to train travel industry personnel. She is now regarded as an expert in the field of Peaceful Settlements – “How to Settle an Estate Peacefully and Fairly”. This involves her skills as a teacher in helping people learn her proven system for going through the division process of an Estate Settlement. She speaks and conducts workshops for groups regarding this important area of family relationships and also works with professionals (Attorneys, Estate and Financial Planners, CPAs, Insurance Companies, etc.) to help fulfill this important niche in the estate settlement process.