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Siblings’ Rights After Parents’ Death – A Guide to Planning & Decision-Making

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No one ever thinks about outliving their parents, but when it happens, the surviving siblings can be left with a lot of unanswered questions. What are their rights and responsibilities? How do they divide up the estate? Who makes decisions for the family? This post will explore those questions and offer some guidance about siblings’ rights after their parents’ death.

What Happens To Siblings When Their Parents Die?

After parents’ death, siblings have lots of planning and decisions to make. In addition to grieving, there are many legal matters that have to be settled upon too.  

The conflict between siblings usually begins at the death of parents, and sibling would want their rightful share in whatever their parents owned. There comes into play a will or trust. If the parents left a will or a trust, it would be easier for the siblings. 

However, there can be situations where the parent never left a will, so siblings will have to decide who gets what, which could be a challenge. One sibling may complain about not having enough money, while the other may want complete control over the business, or the property should be under another’s name. Not having a will or trust could cause a terrible family feud and lead to circumstances they’d regret later.

If the parents never left a will, or if there was a will and the siblings want to avoid all this confusion, they would have to take it to court. Throughout this process, the court will decide who legally gets what. By the court, distributing the deceased parents’ assets lawfully to each person is a process called “probate.” 


How Do They Get Divided Among The Siblings, And Who Makes That Decision?

Dividing of wealth amongst siblings after parents’ death can be a disputable matter. Generally, the dead parents’ wealth is supposed to be divided equally among siblings, but sometimes this may not be the case. 

In the parents’ will, sometimes if there is a sibling that’s disabled, there would be a more significant amount of wealth left for this sibling because of their disability. In some situations, the oldest amongst the children would seek more, or maybe a sibling with medical issues would want more from the parents’ wealth.

Having a will is always the best way to avoid conflict between siblings, but they could always contact a lawyer to sort out issues if there are disagreements. 


Can They Live In The Family Home?

After their parents’ death, typically, the siblings already living in that house would just remain there if they didn’t want to leave. However, if the deceased parents made a will and didn’t give them ownership of the home, then the person’s name who is on the will to own the house would have to inherit the home. 

The sibling who’s supposed to inherit the house can decide who can reside in the home or leave. 

How Do They Continue To Pay For Things Like School And Food?

Losing your parents is just something no one can get used to because at whatever age you are, the thought of the death of your parents, in reality, can be a hard pill to swallow. If the siblings are adults, then there are greater chances that they can take care of themselves, like buying their food and going through their schooling.

However, when it comes to younger children, this can be more challenging because they are under age and can be more vulnerable to:

  • Abuse 
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Mental break downs

Usually, in younger children, the caregiver would have the responsibility to continue to pay for their school, food, etc. There can also be some strategies that can help children who fall under this category to cope, like being positive and speaking kind words to the children, giving them a listening ear, communicating with them, etc. 


What If One Sibling Wants To Sell The House?

After their parents’ death, some siblings may decide upon selling the house. This decision on the sale of the family home may be easy, but sometimes it can also be problematic. Many questions should be asked in this situation, like did the deceased parents leave a will, and is it included in that will who should own the home, or should the house be sold?

Another question should be whose name is on the title of the house? And is the house completely paid off, or is there still a mortgage on the home? If the sibling inherited the house from the deceased parents, some steps must be completed before the house’s final sale. Some of these steps include contacting the estate executor, finding a real estate agent with experience in selling homes such as inherited homes, verifying the insurance policy for the inherited house, etc. 

What If One Sibling Wants More Than Their Share – Can They Take It To Court To Get What They Want?

If there is more than one sibling, and all children have no known medical issues or disabilities, the most obvious thing is to equally share the deceased parents’ possessions. However, with or without a will, if the sibling wants more than their share, they can get a lawyer and take it to court. 


Are There Any Other Issues That Come Up When Siblings Are Dealing With The Death Of Their Parents’ Intestate?

Siblings dealing with the death of their parents’ intestate can come with some issues compared to the siblings whose deceased persons have a will. Having a will makes things a lot easier, however, being intestate (someone who dies without a will) can cause many disputes between family members about who should own the property. 

Since the parents never left a will, sometimes siblings may want plenty more than others, leading them to court.


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How Can Siblings Make Sure Their Parents’ Wishes Are Followed After They die, Even If They Didn’t Have a Will Drawn Up Beforehand?

As mentioned before, having a will is the best and safest thing. Still, if no will is involved, then the siblings should try their best to communicate properly, make decisions based on each other thoughts and try their best to divide the parents’ possessions in an equal manner.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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