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An estate plan tells the children about their parents’ wishes and helps to divide up assets after death. It’s a very important plan that is based around a will, but which may also contain many other documents and legal tools, like powers of attorney and irrevocable trusts.

As the estate passes through probate, it can sometimes cause what experts call a “sibling divorce.” When this happens, children may get into such deep arguments and disagreements that they never talk or see each other again. This can last for decades or for life. It may be the end of that relationship entirely.

Why does it happen? There are a lot of potential reasons. For instance, if one sibling thinks that the other used undue influence to get more for themselves in the will, they could try to prove that it’s not what their parents really wanted. The other sibling may contest this and resent those allegations. Regardless of the outcome, those two may never get back on speaking terms.

It’s also problematic when old rifts or childhood roles come into play. For instance, one child may have always felt like the parents trusted an older sibling more. When the will names that older sibling as the estate executor, the younger child feels excluded yet again. Those thoughts they always harbored about how their parents didn’t love them or trust them as much seem justified. It leads to resentment and disputes.

As you can see, even a well-documented estate plan can lead to some serious issues and long-term ramifications. All involved need to know exactly what legal options they have.