Inheritance Disputes and How to Avoid Them


On April 21, 2016, Prince Roger Nelson, mononymously known as Prince, died unexpectedly and left behind an estimated $300 million estate – with no Will. A judge ruled that the superstar’s six siblings should inherit his fortune, but more than 700 people came forward claiming to be legitimate heirs. Inheritance feuds over celebrity estates are not uncommon, but these feuds happen within normal families way too often. If a Will can prevent or greatly reduce such squabbles, why do so many people avoid drafting this important document? These are the top three reasons we hear:

  • I am uncomfortable talking about death.
  • I am not wealthy enough to need an estate plan.
  • I am too young to need a Will.

What is an Estate?


Any person who owns any property – a house, car, boat, business, bank account, has an estate. An estate is basically all the possessions that one owns. Estate planning affords preservation and protection. They say blood is thicker than water, but when inheritance comes into play, we have seen family bonds become strained or even severed.

How to Avoid Inheritance Feuds

So, how can you avoid such a dispute over your Estate? It is simple. Write a Will. A well-drafted and legally enforceable Will ensures that your assets are distributed after death according to your wishes. Equally important, a Will is the place where you name the successor guardian of any minor children and make provisions for their care should something happen to you.

What Makes A Will Valid?

The following are necessary for a Will to be valid in North Carolina:

  • The testator must be 18 years or older and of sound mind.
  • The Will must be signed by the testator and attested by at least two competent witnesses.
  • We go a step further in our practice and have all Wills signed before two witnesses AND a notary public.

If I Have A Will, Can Disputes Still Occur?


While a Will is not a 100% guarantee that your Estate will be settled without conflict, it helps. When we see a Will being disputed, it is generally for the following reasons:

  • The heirs or family believe the Will was not signed by the testator but was instead forged (this is where having a notary is important).
  • The family or heirs believe the testator lacked capacity at the time the Will was signed.

We most often see this second dispute when a Will is signed at a hospital or on the testator’s deathbed. If a Will must be executed under these circumstances, having a doctor or nurse familiar with the testator’s mental capacity serve as a witness could be beneficial. It is important that the medical professionals document the medical records about the testator’s mental capacity at the time of the signing. Finally, if an attorney drew up the Will at the request of the testator, that legal professional would be another witness should the matter move to litigation.

Final Thoughts

If you want to avoid disputes over your estate, you must plan now. Contact us so we can prepare your estate planning documents today. Planning is the best thing you can do to safeguard your Estate and provide for your loved ones after death. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for regular posts about all things Estate Planning.