Sibling vs. Sibling: The Inheritance Wars

Caren Chesler has this interesting article in the March/April edition of Private Wealth magazine. The article addresses the inheritance wars that often arise between siblings when another sibling gets a larger inheritance for their caregiving work for the deceased parent, or one sibling grew up more frugally than a younger sibling who was born after their parents made a fortune, and the business succession disputes that can break out and threaten companies, especially where one sibling is deeply involved with the company’s operation and another sibling is not in the family business.

All of these inheritance wars boil down to a lack of communication. Communication is critical in estate planning and business succession.  Your desires, wishes, and intent need to be clearly laid out for your children or grandchildren and business partners. And your documents need to be crystal clear to help avoid potentially divisive and costly disputes.

Estate planning and business succession planning can be an excruciating process where raw emotions and decades-old resentments and grudges are laid bare and flare up over the continuation of the family name/money. San Francisco attorney John O’Grady is quoted in the article as recommending a healthy alternative where:

“Everyone has a voice. Everyone knows what the plan is. And in the end, [the siblings] participated in that plan, whether or not mom and did did it their way.” Without good communication about estate planning and business succession, siblings may feel ignored, as if “their parents mentioned a plan but never showed it to them, and they have no idea what’s going to happen when their parents die.” The unhappy result of a lack of communication is that the estate planning process may “end in tears.”

Please give me a call (913-707-9220) or email me ( if I can help you or your family with estate planning and business succession issues.

(c) 2012, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.


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