A common reason why some people don’t engage in estate planning is a fear that their families will fight after their death, when their motives and activities will be subjected to unwanted intense public scrutiny. Because it provides a medium for the public airing of the dirty laundry and family secrets of testators and their families, the mere possibility of an estate squabble may cause clients stress and anxiety during the estate-planning process and cause them to put it off for that reason alone.

So what are some common reasons that people fight over inheritances?

  • Humans are predisposed to competition and conflict.
  • Our psychological self is intertwined with the approval that receiving an inheritance confers.
  • Humans are genetically predisposed toward looking for exclusions.
  • the death of a loved one is mortality salience that triggers the accompanying death anxiety in humans
  • the possibility of existence of a personality disorder that causes family members to distort and escalate natural family rivalries into personal and legal battles

Estate planning properly done through intergenerational communication for the right reasons can significantly reduce the proclivity to quarrel over inheritance. On the other hand, if poorly done, without communication between the givers and receivers, it can exacerbate fears and worsen inheritance fights.

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