How to Deal with Greedy Family Members After a Death?

Image of angry family members after the death of their other family member

The Drama of Contested Probate Cases

Contested probate cases often seem like they’re ripped straight from a soap opera script, featuring evil stepmothers and bitter sibling rivalries. But what happens when you mix both elements into one real-life drama? Let me share with you a true story that’s sure to captivate.

Enter Sabrina, who found herself thrust into the world of probate law following the untimely passing of her father. The twist? He left no will behind. His most substantial asset? A house in the heart of Orlando, FL. The deed to the property bore a curious detail—it listed his “wife,” Laura, as a co-owner. Yet Sabrina vehemently insisted that her father and Laura were never legally married. According to her, Laura was nothing short of a cunning mistress who tore their family apart and manipulated the deed to her advantage.

Legal Jargon: Understanding Joint Tenancy vs. Tenancy in Common

But, why does this matter? Because of the joint tenancy v. tenancy in common distinction. Tenancy in common is a form of concurrent ownership where each party holds a distinct share of the property, while joint tenancy is a form of concurrent ownership where each party has an equal and undivided interest in the property, with rights of survivorship. If the deed was indeed correct in stating that Laura was the wife and they owned the house as joint tenants, then upon her father’s death, Laura would automatically inherit his share of the house, leaving Sabrina and her brothers with no claim to it. 

How do you resolve family conflict over inheritance?

The first order of business? Hunting down a marriage certificate. Yet, every digital nook and cranny of Florida’s county records turned up empty-handed. Laura was tasked with furnishing evidence of their union, but her efforts fell short. Without witnesses willing to attest to the marriage, Sabrina’s suspicions seemed to hold water. With this revelation, the scales tipped in Sabrina’s favor. Her father’s 50% share of the property was now rightfully hers and her brothers’.

But wait, there’s more drama in store. As the probate proceedings unfolded, a bombshell was dropped—Sabrina’s father had two other daughters with Laura! Shockingly, Sabrina conveniently omitted this crucial detail from her attorney’s radar, hoping for a bigger slice of the inheritance pie. However, the truth couldn’t stay buried for long. The half-sisters emerged as rightful beneficiaries, entitled to a share of their father’s interest in the property. Instead of being split three ways, the father’s 50% interest in the property would be split five ways. Upon Laura’s death, the half sisters will also be entitled to her interests in the property as her sole beneficiaries. Though Sabrina protested the perceived injustice, the cold, hard truth remained—Florida’s probate laws dictate the distribution of assets, and fairness is often in the eye of the beholder.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Costly and Contentious Probate Disputes

So, what’s the takeaway from this riveting saga? Estate planning is paramount. A simple last will and testament could have spared Sabrina’s family from this tangled web of legal wrangling. Instead, the state had the final say in divvying up the inheritance.  Moreover, the prolonged legal battle came at a hefty cost in attorney fees, which may have ultimately outweighed Sabrina’s portion of the inherited interest. This cautionary tale underscores the importance of proactive planning to avoid such costly and contentious disputes.

EPGD Business Law is located in beautiful Coral Gables. Call us at (786) 837-6787, or contact us through the website to schedule a consultation.

*Disclaimer: this blog post is not intended to be legal advice. We highly recommend speaking to an attorney if you have any legal concerns. Contacting us through our website does not establish an attorney-client relationship.*

Share this post

Eric Gros-Dubois

Founding partner Eric Gros-Dubois established EPGD Business Law in 2013. With over a decade of experience expanding the firm and leading it to its current success, Eric now primarily manages the corporate division of EPGD. Given Eric’s educational background, holding both a JD and MBA, combined with his own unique experience of starting a business from scratch and growing it to a multi-million dollar firm, he brings a specialized and invaluable perspective to those seeking legal assistance for themselves and their businesses. Having now instilled his same values in our team of skilled corporate associates, Eric leads a firm that is always ready, willing, and equipped to handle any and every legal matter that a business owner may have.


*The following comments are not intended to be treated as legal advice. The answer to your question is limited to the basic facts presented. Additional details may heavily alter our assessment and change the answer provided. For a more thorough review of your question please contact our office for a consultation.



The Entrepreneurs Handbook

This is a quick legal reference guide covering 16 topics that every business owner needs to have to start a business


The Entrepreneur's Handbook

This is a quick legal reference guide covering 16 topics that every business owner needs to have to start a business.


El Manual del Empresarios

Esta es una guía rápida de referencia jurídica que cubre 16 temas que cada empresario necesita saber para empezar un negocio.