We often discuss the fact that estate planning is not something reserved for the ultra wealthy. Every person can benefit from having estate planning documents in place.

That being said, if you do you have a large estate, then estate planning will be especially critical. The same holds true if you have a large family, as well. In these situations, dying without a solid, comprehensive plan in place can lead to months or even years of legal battles.

For an example of how and why this happens, we can look at the messy probate process for James Brown’s estate.

As noted in reports like this one from the New York Times, it has been over 10 years since the musical legend passed away. And even though he left a will, Brown also left behind complicated assets and a complicated family. As such, numerous legal battles have erupted in the past decade, including lawsuits over: 

  • The value of Brown’s estate
  • The validity of his marriage
  • Brown’s mental capacity at the time he completed his will
  • So-called “back-room dealings” involving copyright termination rights
  • Who should be a trustee
  • The right of Brown’s 16-year-old son to be viewed as an heir

In all, more than a dozen lawsuits have been filed, which has had a dramatic impact on the distribution of Brown’s estate. Not only is the family locked in bitter disputes, but no beneficiaries have received what was set aside for them. This includes the millions of dollars that Brown intended to donate to a scholarship program for underprivileged children.

Large families can present some difficulties when it comes to estate planning and administration, especially when there are significant and complicated assets on the line. Between estrangements and controversial relationships, there could be many reasons why multiple people take issue with a will or the actions of the administrator.

If you have a large family and sizable estate, then taking the time to discuss ways to prevent these types of issues can prove to be in everyone’s best interests. Preventing these types of disputes can be difficult, but it is possible with careful, diligent planning and the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney.