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Conflict Management for Personal Representatives of Family Estates


Being the person that an elderly family member chooses in their will as personal representative of their estate can be both an honor and a burden.  On the one hand, you want to repay your parents for the love and trust they have shown you throughout your life by honoring their wishes about what should happen to their property when they are gone.  On the other hand, the confluence of personal grief with important legal and financial decisions makes the role of the personal representative of an estate a perfect storm for stress.  Plenty of family members have become estranged because of inheritance-related conflicts, and the personal representative of the estate is the one who has to see the ugliness and the no-win situations up close.  If members of your family have a troubled relationship now, the conflict will not magically disappear just because all the siblings get an inheritance.  Working closely with a Central Florida probate lawyer when you are representing a family member’s estate can make the process much easier.

Your Role as Personal Representative Begins Long Before Probate

If you are a parent, your path to parenthood began long before you held your baby or saw a positive pregnancy test.  It was a long series of decisions, from declining to go on a second date with someone who didn’t want children but with whom you otherwise clicked to setting boundaries with your in-laws when you were first married.  Likewise, you should start planning for your role as personal representative as soon as you find out that your family member wants you to fulfill this role.  This could mean asking the testator for more details about his or her wishes than what is written in the will, if the testator is willing to talk about it.  It also means talking to a probate lawyer about how to avoid conflict during probate.

Be Honest with the Testator About Your Worries

Don’t be afraid to talk to the testator about your worries about the estate.  For example, maybe you worry that, during the administration of your father’s estate, your sisters will fight over your late mother’s jewelry, since all of your mother’s personal property passed to your father, and your parents did not make specific provisions about it.  It would be easier for your healthy Dad to give some jewelry to each sister than it would be to resolve the conflict during probate.  Perhaps you worry that an estranged relative will harass you.  Maybe you feel overwhelmed by the task and would like to have your cousin or your father’s lawyer share the role with you.

Leave the Most Difficult Conversations to Your Lawyer

If you have a difficult relationship with your sibling, stepchild, or any other heir listed in the will, probate will not make it easier.  Sometimes the easiest way to preserve the family relationship is to separate business and family.  Let your lawyer talk to your brother about selling your late parents’ house.  This leaves you more room to talk to your brother about sports, music, grandchildren, or any of the other things you usually enjoy talking about.

Contact an Attorney Today for Help

A Clearwater probate lawyer can be just the professional partner you need to keep personal conflicts from placing obstacles in your path as personal representative of an estate.  Contact William Rambaum for help with your case.



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