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Agreement reached in siblings' probate dispute

The relationship between a set of siblings can vary. While many siblings argue, in most cases they ultimately love each other and would do anything to help one another. The last thing that most parents in Texas would want is for their death to spark a dispute among their children. While it won't always prevent a probate dispute, careful estate planning can help surviving relatives understand a parent's wishes.

Unfortunately, a will did not prevent two out-of-state siblings from becoming involved in an estate dispute. In fact, a recent agreement ended a legal dispute that has lasted for over seven years. The case involved a brother and sister battling over their father's estate. The father's estate included Jarmoc Farms Tobacco, a farm that sells approximately $2 million of tobacco each year. At the time of his death, the estate was listed as having $5 million in assets and only $100 in debt, but the estate is currently listed as having $7 million in debt and only $2.8 million in assets.

In a Feb. 2016 ruling, a judge stated that the change happened because the son, named as executor of the estate, used the farm to take out multiple loans in order to fund his and his wife's lavish lifestyle. The judge further ruled that the man increased his share of profits from the farm from 50 percent to 90 percent without permission. As part of the ruling, the judge removed the son as executor of the estate. Additionally, the judge ruled that the man owes the estate over $2 million.

The man attempted to have the judge's ruling overturned. That case has recently closed. As part of the agreement, he will pay his sister $725,000.

The last thing that most parents in Texas want is for their death to spark a rift between their children. Estate planning can often go a long way toward preventing a probate dispute. As part of that process, naming a neutral third party to serve as executor can also help ensure that all decisions made in the best interest of the estate will potentially prevent conflict among beneficiaries.

Source: courant.com, "Siblings Agree To $725,000 Settlement In Jarmoc Farm Probate Battle", Dave Altimari, Feb. 6, 2017

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