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Sibling rivalry and adult estate disputes

When you were growing up together, you felt like you always fought with your siblings. Life was good -- your family was very well off and you always had everything you wanted -- but you just couldn't seem to get along.

Then you went to college, started your own business, got married and started a family. You forgot about those rivalries. When you all got together for the holidays, you had minor issues, but you generally found a way to get through it. You all went your own ways and things seemed good.

Be warned: When your parents pass away, those rivalries could come back. Many people find that they spur estate disputes. You and the other heirs may end up fighting over your parents' estate, especially without your parents around to help smooth things over. Let's take a look at why this happens.

1. A sibling is too competitive

One of the biggest reasons is that one sibling makes everything into a competition. They constantly attempt to "beat" you at everything, hoping to "one-up" you when possible. It doesn't matter what it is. Got a new job? They got a better one. Got your child into a good school? Their child went to a more prestigious school. This attitude can make them want to "win" the estate division process, as well, and they may take you to court to do it.

2. Siblings all have their own relationships with parents

Disputes often happen when bequests are not equal. The problem may be that your siblings did not have the same relationship with your parents that you did. For instance, maybe you stayed around and cared for your parents as they grew older. Meanwhile, a sibling moved to California and rarely called. Your parents could leave you more as a sign of appreciation and to pay you for your effort, but your sibling may feel outraged that things aren't equal.

3. Childhood feelings do not always fade

We often think childhood feelings leave us, but they do not. Maybe you always felt like your parents preferred one of your siblings. You may have forgotten about that after moving out of the house, but it can come back with a vengeance. If your sibling inherits something you wanted, you suddenly feel like it's happened again: Your parents have shown that they did love your sibling more. Those feelings from decades ago resurface in a hurry.

Your options

If you do get involved in an estate dispute for one of these reasons or any other, make sure you know what legal options you have. A lot is on the line. You need to know where you stand and what steps you can take.

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