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Navigating a disputed inheritance in your blended family

The death of a loved one often brings families together. However, it can also tear people apart. In the case of blended families, the death of a parent or stepparent can be a contentious matter among the decedent's spouses (current or former), birth children or stepchildren.

If you have recently lost a parent or spouse, you may be experiencing tension within your immediate family. Sometimes such dissent can result in a disputed inheritance if the beneficiaries are not content with the terms of the will.

Vital facts about inheritance in California

Unlike some states, California does not have an inheritance or estate tax, which is excellent news for you as an heir. However, there will still be fees on the federal level. Keep in mind that the larger the estate, the more involved the court will need to be in your family's proceedings as matters will become increasingly complex.

Often the most significant obstacle to the distribution of the estate is the executor (if there is a will) or administrator (if there is no will). If the person appointed by the court does not get along with the heirs, shows favoritism or, worse, acts dishonestly, problems can result.

3 ways to encourage cooperation among yourself and the other beneficiaries

Regardless of who you think deserves more of the inheritance assets, this dispute is a family matter. Do not lose sight of that even as you choose to pursue your best interests in court. To preserve your relationships with the other beneficiaries, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Remain open. It is challenging to think rationally about anything while grieving but give it your best effort. Consider all factors at play. Do your deceased loved one's arrangements truly seem unfair or were you simply hoping for a different outcome? Remember that there are two (or more) sides to every story, and potentially many lives will be affected by the outcome of this dispute.
  2. Act as mediator when possible. Someone in the family is going to have to step up. Someone is going to have to be the bigger person when disputes get heated. React wisely, and you may be rewarded both monetarily and socially.
  3. Respect the court's ruling. You will have to abide by the decision the judge makes, so accept it with grace that would honor your deceased loved one and behave generously.

Family is forever, no matter the outcome of these proceedings. Preserve the relationships you can, and you will be grateful down the road.

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