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Family dynamics can change when someone passes away

When working on an estate plan, a family may look like it is a happy, functional social unit. Everyone may get along, it may be easy to agree on the estate plan, and it will appear that there won't be any conflict.

One of the problems with estate planning, though, is that there can be hidden issues that people won't disclose. They may not even realize how bad things are. When someone passes away, though, all of that can change. This is especially true if the parent who dies was essentially holding the family together, providing stability and "glue" that is gone when he or she passes.

For example, a younger son may always have slightly resented an older daughter, thinking the parent favored her. He may have typically hidden these feelings to avoid insulting the parent.

When the parent dies, if he feels that the estate plan is unfair to him and favors the daughter, these feelings may suddenly come to light. He won't just be angry at getting what he feels is a smaller stake in the assets, but he'll be mad about years of treatment that he's never talked about before. The property division process suddenly becomes the area where he wants to make his stand against this perceived injustice -- whether it's real or not may not matter -- and the whole thing can end up in the courts. Siblings sometimes never recover their relationships after these conflicts.

If this happens, it can lead to a very long, complicated property division process. All parties involved must understand this process, their legal rights and how the will and estate plan are enforced in Oklahoma.

Source: American Bar Association, "Hidden Conflicts of Interest," Joseph M. Hartley, accessed Sep. 29, 2016

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