In an excerpt from his new book Blood & Money: Why Families Fight over Inheritance and What to Do About it, attorney P. Mark Accettura argues that estate disputes are really less about "the money" than they are about psychological and physiological characteristics such as an innate disposition for conflict and the yearning for approval from a deceased parent that an inheritance is seen to represent.
When counseling clients regarding how to best pass their assets to their children or other loved ones, I spend considerable time delving into the background of the family and each individual member. It is critical that as an estate planning attorney I learn everything I can about the relationships between and among family members so that I can help the client plan to minimize the possibility for conflicts among the family after the client is gone. I don't take at face value any client's statement that "everyone gets along fine, and always will." Instead I emphasize to them that, while it's certainly possible that family harmony will continue after the client's death, it is also as likely that the client has served as the "glue" who has helped smooth over simmering tensions among children or other family members. I emphasize that when the "glue" is gone, the tensions that have festered under the surface for years -- even decades -- may explode into a battle that may work it's way through court system for years, costing tens of thousands of dollars and leaving the family irrevocably broken.
Click here for the excerpt from Accettura's book.