Over half of family feuds due to inheritance disagreements

Avoid a family feud by leaving clear instructions to the executor of your estate.
Avoid a family feud by leaving clear instructions to the executor of your estate.

Play the peacekeeper of your family even in death by ensuring you leave behind a legal Will with clear instructions to the executor of your estate. Recently released findings on family feuds claim that 60% of long-standing splits in families are due to disputes over inheritance.

The study, conducted by relationships sociology Dr Jo Ann Bridle, found that the most common reason for families being split into two factions is fighting over a Will. Other common causes of family feuds include taking sides after a messy divorce, snubbing certain family members by not inviting them to large events such as weddings, and refusing to forgive family members after arguing.

The study found that most family feuds are never resolved. Once the people most central to the dispute die, remaining family members are often unable to form lasting bonds with those on the other side of the fight, though many try to organise reunions.

Some of the families in the study had feuds going back decades. One notable case involved two siblings being unable to agree on who should get their deceased mother’s vehicle. While the mother had made a Will, she did not update it after purchasing her luxury car. The siblings lost twice the value of the car in the ensuing court proceedings.

Dr Bridle says that she was not surprised by the findings, as money often comes between familial bonds.

“In a lot of cases, it was thought that there would be no dramas in splitting assets of a deceased family members, but you often get one person deciding to go after a bigger slice of the pie despite a history of getting along fantastically with other family members,” she says.

“Often the whole issue could have been avoided, had the deceased person left behind a Will. There is just too much room for interpretation when it is not in writing. A verbal agreement can hold up legally, but it is not going to do the family relations any favours.”