The Most Common Legal Issues When a Loved One Dies

Few things in life are as difficult as experiencing the death of a loved one. The period of grief surrounding a family member’s passing is emotionally difficult, and it has the potential to be legally and financially difficult as well. There are a few common legal problems that arise in the aftermath of a death in the family – most of which can be avoided with proper estate planning. Some of these legal problems, like family disputes, are impossible to completely prevent. But other problems, like discovering that the wrong beneficiary is listed on your spouse’s life insurance, can be prevented. Strategic estate planning can help reduce the chances of conflict or legal disputes after your death. 

Preventing Legal Issues When a Loved One Passes Away

Disputes over a loved one’s estate property can tear a family apart. Even if the entire family is still getting along, issues can arise during estate administration. Common legal concerns your family may face after a loved one’s death include: 

  • Probate – The probate process is long, complex, and expensive for surviving relatives. Even if your loved one had a will, you still have to go through probate. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid or reduce the probate process. For example, using a trust to transfer assets avoids probate. 
  • Family conflict – When there is no estate planning document to spell out all the deceased’s wishes clearly, there is always a risk that family members will fight over estate property. Some elderly people will promise an item to a relative, then forget and promise the item to a different relative, leading to a later dispute. Or, if there is no instruction for the distribution of assets, families argue as each member struggles to claim items they believe should be theirs. 
  • Wrong beneficiary – It is more common than you might think for a family to discover after a loved one’s death that the wrong beneficiary is listed on an insurance policy. There are a variety of reasons this happens. The deceased could simply have forgotten that his ex-spouse’s name was still on the policy, or errantly thought he had changed it but failed to complete a step in the process. Challenging a beneficiary designation can be extremely difficult, if not impossible. It is important to ensure beneficiary designations are evaluated and updated regularly. 
  • Real estate complications – During estate administration, there may be unexpected complications with the deed to a real estate property, such as a lien or other encumbrance. Sometimes, it is also discovered that another person, such as a former spouse, has an interest in the deceased’s property. 

The good news is that these problems can be avoided with a bit of planning. An estate planning lawyer will have the tools to help you head off some potential legal issues and make things easier for the survivors. 

Call an Illinois Estate Planning Lawyer 

Gierach Law Firm has the experience and skill needed to help you create an estate plan that eliminates as many potential problems as possible. Our Naperville estate planning lawyers will work with you to ensure all your concerns are addressed and you are confident in your estate plan. Call 630-756-1160 to schedule a confidential consultation. 



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Please note: These blogs have been created over a period of time and laws and information can change. For the most current information on a topic you are interested in please seek proper legal counsel.

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