The Wall Street Journal recently had an article entitled “Sibling Rivalry Complicates Estate Planning.” I find that this issue often comes up in estate planning and other matters. The article highlights a dispute over the estate of Jimi Hendrix. When Jimi Hendrix died in 1970, he did not leave a will. His estate had been controlled by his father. When his father died in 2002, a sibling of Jimi Hendrix was put in charge of his estate. In response another sibling disputed the new executor.

The article provides some interesting insight into planning for a dispute among siblings. First, there should not be surprises. If you intend to treat children unequally, a no contest clause may address your needs, although it needs to be written properly. Further, the person who wants to contest a will or trust must have received a sufficient inheritance in order for the beneficiary to decide it is not worth contesting a will or trust. Often times disparate treatment among siblings is a major reason for fights after a parent’s death.

Second, if you do have valuable or sentimental items that you believe your  children will fight over, then it may be worth addressing these issues in your will. California law allows you to handwrite a list of personal property and the persons you want to receive it as part of your will. I will be discussing that issue in a future post.

Sibling disputes can tear apart a family, so efficient estate planning can often avoid these disputes and allow for family unity after a parent’s death. It is important for a person contemplating a will or trust to consider sibling disputes in their estate plan.