When it comes to estate planning, parents with more than one child often have a dilemma. Should they divide their estate equally among their children, or should they give more to some and less to others? Unfortunately, either decision could be the cause of confusion and dissension among the heirs of an estate. Michigan siblings who are unhappy with their parents’ division of property may resort to probate litigation to obtain what they believe is their fair share. But what does “fair” really mean?

On the one hand, dividing the estate equally may seem fair, but in some families, an equal dollar amount may not seem fair. If one sibling has been receiving money or loans from the parents for years, the other siblings may feel that brother or sister has already received his or her portion of the estate. Siblings may also feel that one brother or sister who is much wealthier than they should not receive as much of the estate as they do. On the other hand, one sibling who receives less than the others may feel punished or mistreated.

Another problem parents may leave behind is requiring siblings to share assets. For example, leaving a home, vacation property or business for multiple siblings to share often creates contention. One sibling may be especially attached to a property or involved in the business, and the others may prefer to sell it and split the money. Not all siblings may have the time, desire and resources to maintain the asset.

While Michigan parents may be able to deflect any disagreements by discussing their estate plans with their children or even leaving a detailed letter in their will, many do not. This leaves siblings to work it out among themselves or to seek satisfaction through probate litigation. Contesting the contents of a will is complex and challenging. Those desiring to take this course of action would be wise to have strong legal advocacy.