When it comes to inheritance one thing most individuals dread happening, or deeply regret that it's happened, is having family members wage war against their own flesh and blood.

Most laymen believe that greed is at the heart of family blood fights over an inheritance, but attorney and author P. Mark Accettura--expert on inheritance conflict resolution and elder abuse--says it is a myth that selfish motives are the driving force behind family blood baths after a parent has died.

"The fight for money and things, such as Dad's watch or Mom's wedding ring, is not about the object or money itself, but is really about what the money or object symbolizes--importance, love, security, self-esteem, connectedness and immortality," says Accettura whose conclusions are based on three decades in the legal trenches aided by five years of research in social psychology, evolutionary psychology, psychiatry, gerontology, and neuropsychology.

That life experience and research culminated with the August 2011 release of "Blood & Money: Why Families Fight Over Inheritance and What to Do About It."

"Blood & Money" not only details the psychological reasons why families fight but provides practical legal remedies to prevent such blood-letting disputes after Mom or Dad die. The author's fourth book offers an understanding of family dynamics as applied to estate planning.

Accettura offers some 60 specific recommendations to help parents, offspring, and their advisors prevent inheritance squabbles and preserve the most valuable legacy of all--the family itself. The concluding chapter outlines appropriate legal remedies to minimize the damage caused by bad actors and toxic wills.

Whenever a spouse dies and the surviving spouse remarries, Accettura stresses it is critical for a new will and trust to be drawn to protect the interests of the new spouse and the natural children. "When a remarried parent is negligent and does not draw up a new will and trust," says Accettura, "then the blood is on the parent's hands for not taking care of the business necessary to keep peace in the family after death."

The author says the role of an estate planning attorney when family members are fighting is to serve as a counselor and find a means to resolve the inheritance conflict. "An attorney must be sincere, transparent, honest and fair but most of all be a peacemaker," adds Accettura. "The goal is to resolve the family conflict, not to identify a breach of responsibility or breach of law and file a lawsuit which will serve to heighten the conflict rather than producing family peace."

Accettura said he was inspired to write "Blood & Money" because of an increase in elder abuse, because of the growing epidemic of Alzheimer's disease, because 65 percent of Americans fail to plan for their death, and to uncover the reasons why families fight at the death of a loved one.

In "Blood & Money," the author explores the impact of dysfunctional families and personality disorders on inheritance disputes and contrasts the toxic, bitter battles involving super-rich personages such as Leona Helmsley, Summer Redstone, and Brooke Astor with the conspicuously philanthropic such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.

An estate planning, inheritance conflict resolution, and elder law attorney for 30 years, Accettura has counseled thousands of families on estate and inheritance matters. He lectures frequently on estate planning topics and for 10 years was an adjunct professor at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. For five years, Accettura hosted LawTalk, a regular television series seen via cable in 37 cities in Michigan. Besides "Blood & Money," Accettura has written "Medicaid and Long Term Care in Michigan" (2005), "The Michigan Estate Planning Guide" (2002) and "Lost and Found: Finding Self-Reliance after the Death of a Spouse" (2001).

"Blood & Money: Why Families Fight Over Inheritance and What to Do About It." (ISBN 978-0-9669278-4-9, Collinwood Press, Farmington Hills, MI) is available at

Published: Wed, Nov 16, 2011