Enemy of my Enemy: Dealing with a Parent’s Death

Rekindling relationships and overcoming greed after a parent has passed is troubling and can make anyone else involved appear as an enemy.

The joy, love, and closeness that the three of us siblings had for one another growing up and well into our adult lives withered at the death of our parents. Dad was the first to pass, followed by my mom’s passing six months ago. Our parents had substantial assets and no wills. 

Probate is required to settle the estate, but no probate has yet begun because, in our selfishness, we are still squabbling over who is entitled to what. It caused significant emotional damage to our relationship before our parents’ death. Q: What legal advice would enable us to overcome our greed and reunite the love and harmony we once had?

A: Power of Collaboration – In probate cases, it is vital to emphasize the significance of collaboration among beneficiaries. Fostering an environment of open communication and understanding can help achieve the shared goal of equitable distribution by encouraging siblings to view one another as allies or partners in a contract, at least temporarily, rather than adversaries.

Veil of Ignorance – This is the theory of justice as fairness. Individuals should imagine themselves behind a “veil of ignorance,” unaware of their unique position in the specifics of their inheritance. This theory encourages beneficiaries to consider fairness from a neutral standpoint, free from personal biases or preconceived notions, and they are more likely to engage in productive discussions aimed at reaching a just resolution.

Transparency and Mediation – Transparency plays a vital role in resolving conflicts during probate ensuring that, with or without a will, all beneficiaries are aware of the assets. Sharing relevant information allows beneficiaries to base their expectations on reality rather than assumptions, reducing the potential for greed-driven disputes.

Professional Mediation – In cases where tensions persist, mediation can be invaluable. Mediators, such as estate planning attorneys, can act as neutral third parties, simplifying and guiding beneficiaries toward a mutually satisfactory outcome. Through dialogue and active listening, estate attorneys help beneficiaries identify shared interests and find common ground, leading to a fairer distribution of assets. Mediation helps restore respect and dignity, fostering an environment conducive to suitable resolutions among all beneficiaries.

Preserving Family Bonds – An ancient proverb, “Enemy of My Enemy is my Friend,” suggests that two or more parties can and should work together against a common enemy. In probate, too often, the common enemy is beneficiaries against one another in the interest of selfish individual greed.

Probate should not be a battle for material possessions but rather an opportunity to honor the wishes and memories of the deceased while preserving family bonds. Reminding beneficiaries of the importance of these relationships can encourage them to put aside personal interests and prioritize the collective well-being of the family unit.

In probate disputes, promoting collaboration, transparency, and mediation among beneficiaries is crucial. By applying fairness and respect, you will experience a more peaceful distribution of assets while preserving the family bonds held while your parents lived.


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Written by Kristen Jackson

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