Sibling battles have been immortalized in fact, fiction, film – and unfortunately, in thousands of court dockets. It’s said that when the second child shows up on the family scene that the classic tug of war for parental attention begins. More siblings – more tug-of-wars, more shifting alliances and more life stories.
Siblings have a unique perspective of family members’ personalities – a perspective that at times may be frozen in adolescence and emotions that cannot be quelled even with adulthood. Siblings live their inextricably linked lives from birth to death. Siblings’ relationships at their best are grounded in a sense of humor, love, respect and forgiveness and at their worst unremitting resentment.
It’s an unfortunate part of estate and trust litigation that a sizable number of cases are founded on unresolved sibling rivalries. Siblings often find it hard to believe that they share the same bloodline – and of course there are times that they discover that they don’t – at least in part. We’ve handled several cases where a sibling learned well after a parent’s death that their father really wasn’t their father – and that they were the offspring of an extramarital affair or a relationship that predated a marriage to a man who helped raised them.
I was first hired to represent clients in a sibling estate battle over forty years ago – a battle back then that spanned two countries. Over the years and after many battles – both protracted and brief – I have a few insights to share.
First – I will not commit the resources of our law firm to a battle for vengeance. Vengeance is not the moral or legal purpose of our justice system.
Second – to the extent that we can we try to refocus a client in a sibling battle to the realities of our system – estate and trust litigation is ultimately about asset allocation or assessment of financial damages – not about punishing a sibling.
There are both serious and comical films of sibling rivalry. The Godfather Part II is a dark tale of greed and murder between brothers. A History of Violence tells a tale of unremitting hatred of one brother against another. The King’s Speech is an inspiring story of a younger sibling called to satisfy expected duties that his older brother irresponsibly rejects. And, of course, Step Brothers communicates a yarn of sibling idiocy.
At Hackard Law we handle estate and trust cases that sometimes involve siblings with real and justiciable legal disputes. We represent clients in most of California’s major urban areas including Los Angeles, Sacramento, Alameda, Contra Costa and San Mateo Counties. We can be reached at 916 313-3030.