The expectation of inheritance can often times bring out the worst in us. It is not uncommon for families to engage in all out war over property they did little to earn. In 1924, a Texas appeals court said, “Law suits between brothers and sisters over parental devises or inheritances almost invariably lead to bitterness and discord, and as a matter of public policy should be discouraged whenever practicable.” Many things in society has changed since 1924, however many things haven’t.
When fighting over inheritance, we have represented family members in awful contested probate situations. Siblings hide property from each other. Wills are also hidden or even falsified. Common law marriages are alleged for the first time. These things can get ugly.
One Solution: Family Settlement Agreements
Lawsuits can drag on for years and emotionally and financial taxing. Texas law recognizes that encouraging compromise is in the public interest including in inheritance disputes. “Family Settlement Agreements” aim to resolve the conflict between the heirs while attempting to stay true to the Descendant’s wishes. Three principles guide the concept of the family settlement agreement:
- The decedent’s right to make a testamentary disposition;
- the beneficiaries’ right to convey their rights; and
- balancing those competing rights by requiring an agreement to an alternative distribution plan.
(In re Estate of Halbert, 172 S.W.3d 194, 199 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 2005, pet. denied)
Drafting a Family Settlement Agreement
Ultimately, a family settlement agreement is a contract between all parties that have an interest in the Descendant’s estate. Yes, that means everyone must agree to the settlement. Generally, the agreement must provide an alternate plan of the estate’s distribution, it must fully dispose of the estate and it must also resolve any of the Descendant’s outstanding debt.
If you or a loved one is in an inheritance dispute, contact Daly & Campbell for a free consultation at 281-488-1500.