One of the quickest ways to start a family feud is to die without a Will in place, particularly if you have several adult children. While everybody would like to believe that cooler heads would prevail when it comes to disseminating your estate, this is rarely the case without the support an estate plan and a Will gives.
The story of the Chen Family shows how important it is to have good estate planning to preserve family relationships. Wendy and Vincent Chen had a large family: six children. In 2020, all six of Wendy and Vincent’s children were fully grown and the Chens were enjoying their retirement. In a tragic twist of fate, both Wendy and Vincent caught COVID-19 early in the pandemic, and both died as a result. Fortunately, the Chens died without any debt, as they were frugal. Unfortunately, they also died without a Will, leaving their six children to sort through their estate.
The fights begin
With zero overhead guidance for breaking up the estate, fissures quickly began to appear between the Chen children. The oldest son, Daniel, had borrowed $60K from Vincent and Wendy in order to put a down payment on his house. Once Wendy and Vincent died, Daniel claimed that the $60K had been a gift and that he did not have to pay it back to the estate. The other siblings did not agree with this, claiming that Wendy and Vincent had given Daniel the money as a good-faith loan and that Daniel was trying to take financial advantage of Wendy and Vincent’s death.
Another adult daughter, Stacy, had been living in a guest house on Wendy and Vincent’s property, rent-free. Some of the Chen children wished to sell the property, and others did not. Some claimed that if Stacy was going to continue living on the property that she had to start paying rent to the other siblings. Stacy did not agree, particularly if Daniel did not need to pay back his loan. Tensions were very high.
Eventually, the situation got so bad that the Chens knew they needed outside help to manage Wendy and Vincent’s estate. The courts ended up appointing an administrator in order to start the probate process and help negotiate the concerns of the Chen children.
This was not easy. Not only did the Chen children need to fully document Wendy and Vincent’s assets, but they also had to produce a family tree proving Wendy and Vincent were the parents of all six adult children.
An estate administrator is different from an executor. The administrator in the Chen case was an unrelated legal professional. The only way to mediate the arguments between the Chens was to call in somebody who “did not have a dog in the fight,” so to speak.
The lessons learned
Dying without a Will has serious repercussions for family relationships. What can start out as a good-faith loan from parents to a child can become the subject of a contentious family rift that ruins relationships forever.
Dying without a will is never worth it. Contact us at AmeriEstate to get your estate plan started today and preserve your family’s lineage and relationships.