The loss of a loved one is often an unbearably sad and stressful time. Between making funeral arrangements and dealing with the distribution of the estate, the weeks and months that follow can feel overwhelming.

The grieving period is only made worse when family members fight over the deceased’s assets. Thankfully, you can help avoid family disputes by making arrangements for the distribution of your assets while you’re still alive. It’s particularly important to address the items that are the most common sources of infighting.

While every estate is different and there’s no guaranteed way to avoid disputes, providing for the distribution of the following types of assets will go a long way toward mitigating future disagreements among your family members.

Real Estate

Real property is one of the most valuable items in many estates. Whether you have buildings, land, or both, these assets are often worth a lot. They’re also impossible to physically divide among beneficiaries, so you’re faced with either passing them on to a single individual or forcing your heirs into a joint ownership situation. Either of these options can lead to bickering and disputes, but failing to designate who gets the property will only make matters worse. In addition to the inherent monetary value, things like family homes can also carry sentimental value that bring emotions into the dispute, making it even uglier.


At the end of the day, money is unfortunately one of the biggest things family members fight about when a loved one passes away. Whether it’s cash in a bank account or a sophisticated investment, money is one of the most useful things that heirs stand to inherit. Therefore, it’s not surprising that it can lead to a lot of disputes. It’s not uncommon for people to believe that they’re owed more than others for a whole host of reasons. The only way to avoid fights is to make it clear up front who gets what.


When an estate contains any items of significant value, there are bound to be disputes if the deceased fails to designate who is to inherit them. Things like expensive china, fine jewelry, and precious antiques are at the center of many family disputes. Adding to the problem, people often verbally promise these items to certain family members while they’re still alive. If those verbal promises aren’t backed up with a written will, however, the situation is ripe for dispute.

Family Heirlooms

While they may range widely in financial value, family heirlooms are often considered some of the most precious assets in an estate by close family members. It’s natural for people to want to be connected to family history, and heirlooms are a tangible way to do that. Moreover, deaths understandably stir up a lot of emotions and family nostalgia, so even people who didn’t previously have an interest in family genealogy often find themselves suddenly wanting their own piece of family history. For items that have been passed down from generation to generation, fights are sure to erupt if you haven’t clearly specified who the item is to pass to next.

Sentimental Items

Some of the most cherished assets in a person’s estate have absolutely no financial value or historical significance whatsoever. Instead, they’re items that are closely associated with the deceased and take on personal value purely through that sentimental connection. Something as simple as a $5 necklace or a hand-knit scarf can spark more heated disagreements than precious jewels if emotional ties are involved.

The best way to avoid fights among your loved ones after you’re gone is to adopt a clear estate plan while you’re still here. Whether you opt to gift items while you’re still alive or transfer items through a will, clearly designating who is to inherit what is the only way to minimize disputes and ensure that your property is distributed according to your wishes.

Contact a California Estate Planning Attorney Today

The Ledbetter Law Firm, APC is dedicated to helping individuals and families plan for their futures through all aspects of estate planning. Contact The Ledbetter Law Firm, APC to discuss your estate planning needs and any questions you might have about wills, trusts, or lifetime gifts.

The Ledbetter Law Firm, APC