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Avoiding a family dispute by making a Will

    Thoughtful Estate Planning Can Safeguard Your Family’s Future

    Family dysfunction is a universal challenge that, unfortunately, often intensifies during times of grief and loss. In the aftermath of a family member’s death, a family dispute can arise, risking not just financial assets but the very fabric of family relationships. Working with a lawyer that can help you develop a proactive estate plan can help mitigate potential family discord and protect the well-being of your loved ones.

    Understanding the Impact of Family Relationships & Setting Expectations

    Family relationships can take a toll after the death of a loved one. Friction that lay dormant for years may emerge, leading to disputes that culminate in litigation and the breakdown of family bonds. By addressing potential issues through clear and transparent communication, an estate plan helps prevent misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations among family members. This is particularly crucial in British Columbia, where cultural diversity and unique family structures may require specialized attention in estate planning.

    It is recommended to engage in open discussions with family members, possibly facilitated by a lawyer, to establish a clear plan for the distribution of assets and personal belongings. Communicating the estate plan effectively can not only manage beneficiary expectations but also avert disputes over the testator’s true intentions.

    Common Conflicts to Consider

    1. Disputes over Asset Distribution:
      • One of the most common reasons for estate litigation is disagreements among family members regarding the distribution of assets. In cases where there is no clear and detailed estate plan, disputes may arise over the allocation of property, financial assets, or personal belongings.
    2. Intestacy Issues:
      • When a family member passes away without a valid will (intestacy), it can lead to conflicts among heirs regarding who is entitled to what portion of the estate. The absence of clear instructions often results in legal battles to determine rightful heirs and the distribution of assets.
    3. Challenges to the Validity of the Will:
      • Estate litigation may occur if there are suspicions or allegations that the executed will is not valid. Challenges to the validity of a will can arise due to concerns about the testator’s mental capacity, coercion, or undue influence during the creation of the will.
    4. Family Business Succession Disputes:
      • In cases where a family business is part of the estate, conflicts may emerge over the succession plan. Disputes may involve disagreements about leadership roles, shares, or the overall management of the family business, potentially leading to litigation.
    5. Undue Influence and Coercion:
      • Family members may contest a will if they believe that the deceased was unduly influenced or coerced into making specific provisions. This can include situations where one family member exerts pressure on the testator, leading to a will that does not accurately represent the testator’s true intentions.

    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    In the event of a family dispute post-death, there are alternatives to court litigation. Estate mediation, a popular option in British Columbia, allows families to find compromises that preserve their relationships. This approach emphasizes open communication and negotiation, fostering a more amicable resolution than a court battle.


    In navigating the intricate landscape of family dynamics and estate planning in British Columbia, the significance of seeking experienced legal advice cannot be overstated. By consulting with legal professionals, you can proactively address potential conflicts, providing clarity and guidance that will endure long after you are gone.

    Contact our Wills & Estates team for guidance on how to design an estate plan with everyone’s best interest in mind. Should conflicts arise, our team is well-positioned to address disputes and mediate towards positive outcomes.