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Passing on a Family Business? Plan Wisely to Avoid Family Drama

It's a high-stakes multi-million-dollar sibling rivalry that reads like a Hollywood movie script and is playing out in a federal courtroom in Covington. And an end to the nearly 20-year drama may be just six months away, as a judge set a trial date for early May 2015 in the case that pits brothers against sisters, who allege they were cheated out of their family's fortune.

Sibling rivalries aren't just for school-aged children. Estates can stir up fights among family members if handled the wrong way.

In recent news, four sisters allege that their three brothers improperly cut them out of their proper inheritance.

John Griffin founded his family business, Griffin Industries, in 1943. The meat-processing company eventually grew into one of the largest privately held corporations in Kentucky. However, when Griffin passed away, his children started fighting over the company.

Recently a judge stated that the brothers breached their fiduciary duty to the sisters. Now, after nearly 20 years, a trial date is expected to be set for next January as reported by WCPO in "Family feud: Griffin Industries inheritance fight still going strong after 19 years; could end soon."

Most of the documents in this case have been filed under seal, so we do not know exactly how to asses this particular battle. Nevertheless, these types of family feuds over the business are not unusual.

Passing on a business to the next generation requires proper planning.

What is intended after the founder passes away needs to be made very clear in the founder's estate plan. Ideally, the next generation should be informed of these intentions and the estate plan to implement them.

That gives the surviving family members time to prepare to run the company and lessens the likelihood of future fights. An experienced estate planning attorney can help ensure that everything runs smoothly, preserving both the business and the family.

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