Taking a Sibling to Court. Why People Do It and What to Expect.

taking a sibling to court
Taking a sibling to court and filing an adversarial case can be unpleasant but is sometimes necessary in order to protect your legal rights. Especially when you are a sibling who is deprived of what is rightfully yours.

Sibling relations are often an ambivalent mix of love and hate. Books and popular culture are filled with examples of this complex relationship that stems from competing for parental or familial affections from childhood and well into adulthood. Courtroom scenarios are no less compelling when it comes to a sibling who seeks the court’s determination in settling disputes over estates and inherited property when their parents eventually pass away.

If you are faced with a difficult sibling and need to consult with an attorney, we are here for you. You can send us an email at [email protected] or call us at 212-233-1233.

Taking a sibling to court over estate disputes

The issue of who should enjoy and possess an indivisible piece of inheritance could be a fertile ground for inheritance disputes.

Despite the existence of a will, or the express provisions of the laws on intestacy (in instances when there is no will), disputes may still arise among siblings, particularly when the inheritance involves something that is not capable of being physically distributed among the heirs such as a piece of heirloom jewelry or antique furniture. It is possible that more than one sibling may want to retain possession of these particular indivisible items due to sentimental or emotional reasons.

Regardless of blood and legal ties, conflicting claims over inheritance may cause emotional distance and ultimately result in taking a sibling to court as adversarial parties. The death of a family member, especially that of a parent, brings forth the question of who deserves what and could be a sensitive and touchy subject.

Taking a sibling to court over non-estate disputes

Even when there is no inheritance, sibling disputes can still arise. This happens in a number of scenarios:

  • A joint business or real estate venture
  • Disagreement over care or place of residence of an aging parent
  • Disagreements over care of one of the siblings

Because negotiations don’t always work out

Siblings have reason to believe in and demand fair and equal treatment from the estate of a parent or a family member. After all, they stand on the same footing in terms of legal relationship with the decedent. However, such familial relationship is rarely so clear or cut and dry. For instance, each one may feel that they have a different level of closeness with the decedent as compared to the other siblings. Factors such as providing support to the decedent while still alive or living with him or her till their dying day contribute to the belief that one sibling is entitled to less or more than what is bequeathed them. This can make it difficult to come to an agreement.

Here are some other reasons why negotiations don’t work and people end up taking a sibling to court:

  • Some people are not honest (with themselves or with others)
  • Some people are stubborn
  • Some people have a hard time making decisions
  • Some people like to bully other people
  • Some people think they deserve more than others
  • Some people have unrealistic views on what is fair

Taking a sibling to court is sometimes the only way to remedy treachery, deceitfulness and greed

In no uncertain terms, it can be said that the world is not perfect. It can be idealized that each sibling only endeavors to get what is due to them. However, it also cannot be denied that there are people who are capable of treachery and deceit in order to obtain what is not rightfully theirs.

You’ll be surprised, but we have seen unscrupulous siblings engage in all kinds of unsavory behavior:

  • They can destroy or falsify documents.
  • They can unjustly rescind verbal agreements and promises made to parents and siblings.
  • They can engage in all kinds of dishonest behavior in order to achieve their end, often out of pure greed.

It is certainly not a remote possibility that one sibling may resort to devious machinations in order to steal the inheritance of the other in order to get ahead. Litigation may be necessary in order to protect or preserve the estate from a sibling who seeks to get more than what he or she is entitled to. In that sense, it may be essential to seek legal help in order to make things right.

When that occurs, taking a sibling to court may be the only way to resolve and defend the rights of those who are aggrieved by a greedy sibling.

Siblings on either side of a disagreement can seek help from the court

As mentioned, while amicable agreements are favored, New York courts have also consistently reaffirmed that no sibling shall be allowed to profit by his or her own fraud, or to take advantage of wrongdoing to acquire property that is not rightfully theirs. This is particularly true in disputes between siblings over estates and inherited property that involve taking a sibling to court. There are certain matters that would need to be heard before a neutral and impartial court in order for rights to be justly determined.

Hence, there are legal remedies available to those who feel that they may have a cause of action against a sibling who has deprived one of their fair share of the estate.

Conversely, there is the other end of the spectrum, where a sibling is the one protecting the estate from the legal attack of one who seeks beyond what he or she is entitled to. In such instances, they can likewise seek protection from the court through the various legal processes that are available.

The benefits often outweigh the downsides

It is often the impression of casual observers that taking a sibling to court to settle inheritance disputes could be expensive or inconvenient. However, there are positive results that arise in litigating these matters in court. One of them is that there will be resolution and finality after an objective evaluation of the court. One of the functions of our courts is, after all, to put an end to legal controversies after duly hearing all sides. Stated otherwise, due process can be observed. Each party will be essentially on equal footing with the other in terms of the opportunity to present their respective cases.

Litigating matters of inheritance disputes will not be a “he-said-she-said” as they tend to be when parties endeavor to resolve legal issues by themselves. Most of the time, these situations may also be emotionally charged, further compounding the process of determining what is true and just. However, in the presence of the court, with the aid of legal professionals, each party would be able to methodically present their side in an orderly manner.

Reconciliation can be a possibility later, once siblings are able to air out their respective grievances

The relationship between siblings can often take many forms. Sometimes of love, sometimes of animosity. Even if one is later adjudged by the losing party, they may be more likely to accept such a ruling when they can see that they have been given the equal opportunity to present their case. Perhaps only then can reconciliation be possible in a court dispute between siblings.

The attitude of courts has always been to favor resolving sibling disputes by mutual agreement, favoring peace and amicable arrangement. And this might well be the final outcome. But in many cases, the resolution will not come before the siblings considered all other options, including taking each other to court.

If you have a situation that involves taking a sibling to court, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. We have offices in New York City, Brooklyn, NY and Queens, NY. We can be reached at 212-233-1233 or by email at [email protected].

Attorney Albert Goodwin

Law Offices of
Albert Goodwin, PLLC
31 W 34 Str, Suite 7058
New York, NY 10001

Tel. 212-233-1233

[email protected]

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