Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Family War

I recommend The Family War: Winning the Inheritance Battle to anyone who is involved in an estate lawsuit, or who is thinking about starting a lawsuit about a will or an estate. I also recommend this book to anyone who is concerned that someone might challenge his or her estate plan.

The Family War is written by Jordan M. Atin, Barry Fish and Les Kotzer. Mr. Atin is a senior associate with the law firm of Hull & Hull LLP in Toronto (the firm that authors the Toronto Estate Law Blog). Mr. Fish is senior partner at Fish and Associates, in Thornhill, Ontario. Mr. Kotzer is an associate lawyer at Fish and Associates. This book was published Continental Atlantic Publications Inc. in 2006. You can order it here.

I find the subtitle “Winning the Inheritance Battle” ironic, because the authors spell out the emotional toll estate disputes take on the participants, including the winners:

Rarely can the winner of a Family War declare that his or her victory was absolute. You must look long and hard to find someone who takes a brother or sister all the way through the court system, completely conquers them, and simply doesn’t care about the emotional fallout that such a victory leaves in its wake. There is almost never an absolute winner. The fact that family members are fighting means that the War will have a cost. Are you a winner if the victory means destroyed relationships with other family members or feelings of shame or guilt if you feel that you have let your parents down? These costs will continue long after the litigation ends and the lawyers are paid.

I agree.

The Family War sets out some examples of estate disputes, discusses the types of disputes that arise in estate litigation, offers advice for preventing disputes, and guidance for resolving disputes. I think the discussion under “After Death Strategies – What Children Can Do” in Chapter 6 “Strategies to Prevent Estate Litigation,” may be particularly helpful to those involved in estate disputes. The overriding message: be reasonable.

It is not a textbook of substantive law for lawyers. The authors discuss the law in a general way, and point out that the law will vary from province to province in Canada. It is a useful starting point for non-lawyers trying to understand the legal issues in estate disputes.

This book is written in plain language, accessible to all.

The Family War will not replace the services of a lawyer who practices this area of law (nor will any other book), but it is a great supplement to using the services of a lawyer. If you are involved in an estate dispute, reading this book may help reduce your legal costs by giving you a good perspective, and sound practical advice for working with your lawyer.

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