More than half of the people who die, leave this earth without a will. Even when they do the estate planning, squabbles, usually among the adult children, break out.

The Washington Post shared the story Family of former mayor Tony Williams in probate court over mother’s will.  They are fighting over stuff. They aren’t unusual.  In the past decade the probate court (that deals with distribution of assets for people that die*) has become one of D.C. Superior Court’s busiest divisions. They have nearly doubled the staffing to deal with the growing number of cases making it to probate court.

The emergence of an “ethical will” which is a document that allows you to convey your personal wishes and where you want your things to go that can be read, shared and used by a family member will go a long way to help avoid the silly fights that break out. It won’t hold up in court, but having a hand-written note might help as loved ones deal with their grief and avoid such family disputes.

 *There are some estate planning measures that can avoid probate court. See an estate lawyer for more details.