Sibling relations is 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 siblings who seek the court’s determination in settling disputes over estates and inherited property when their parents eventually pass away. Taking siblings to court and filing an adversarial case is sometimes necessary in order to protect legal rights, especially when one sibling is deprived of what is rightfully theirs.
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.
Why siblings take each other to court over estate disputes
Regardless of blood and legal ties, conflicting claims over inheritance may cause emotional distance and ultimately result in taking siblings 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.
Real estate disputes between siblings
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 an 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. The issue of who should enjoy and possess an indivisible piece of inheritance could be a fertile ground for inheritance dispute.
Different views on what is “fair”
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 in 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.
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. Unscrupulous siblings can destroy or falsify documents. They can unjustly rescind verbal agreements and promises made to parents and siblings. They can engage in all kids of dishonest behavior in order to achieve their end, often out of pure greed. When that occurs, taking siblings to court may be the only way to resolve and defend the rights of those who are aggrieved by a greedy sibling.
Siblings deprived of their inheritance can seek remedy 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 a 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 siblings to court. There are certain matters that would need to be heard before a neutral and impartial court in order for rights to 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 with 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.
Benefits of taking siblings to court
It is often the impression of casual observers that taking siblings 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 in 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 once siblings are able to air out their respective grievances
Relationship between siblings can often take many forms. Sometimes of love, sometimes of animosity. Even if one is later adjudged be 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 these disputes by the parties’ 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 siblings to court, you can call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin for a consultation. We can be reached at 212-233-1233.