When you lose your loved one and they leave behind assets, conflicts can arise. More than 50% of Americans do not have a will which leaves less than 50% of the population who have wills. Legal issues can occur if your family is contesting a will or trying to figure out who gets what.
If this sounds like something you are going through or looking for more information on estate planning litigation, continue reading below. This article will discuss the legal issues that can arise during estate litigation and who you can reach out to for help today!
What Is Estate Litigation?
In an ideal world, litigation would not exist when deciding who will receive what asset, but that isn't always the case. Whenever there is money at stake or significant assets, families tend to fight over who gets what.
Family feuding over assets is one of the reasons why most estates go through litigation. Estate litigation is when your loved ones disagree with what is listed in the will. If they cannot come to that agreement, parties will hire attorneys to help sort things out.
Estate Planning Litigation
There are many reasons why an estate would end up in litigation, such as a family member has an issue with the executor.
You and your family can avoid estate planning litigation by ensuring that financial planning after death is made clear. It is also essential to meet with an attorney who can help use legal tools to enforce your after-death wishes.
Other reasons estates go through litigation are:
- The deceased did not have a will
- A relative is challenging the will's validity
If your loved one did not have a will before they passed on, your case might have to go through probate. Through that process, the court will name an executor to handle the estate. If someone in the family contests the executor, the case will go through litigation to figure out who will receive what.
Challenging the Will’s Validity
Even if there is a will present, a close relative can contest its validity. The will is typically contested when you are unsure if it truly represents what your deceased loved one wanted.
Challenging the will's validity naturally comes up when your loved one faces cognitive decline or other conditions that can severely impair judgment. There are cases where a family member could have influenced your loved one to create a brand new will that was drastically different from a previously written will.
This new will could exclude certain family members or may only benefit a specific person. If this is the case for you, you may have an undue influence claim.
Undue influence is when your loved one, also known as a testator, is coerced to create a will. They could be compelled by another family member, a healthcare worker, a trusted advisor, or even a close friend.
Lack of Capacity
Per law, the testator must have the mental competency to create a will or a trust. The testator must also understand the nature of their assets and who is to receive said assets.
A will can be considered null and void if there is a valid case of lack of capacity. Incompetency is typically established through a previous medical diagnosis of psychosis. Other medical diagnoses that prove lack of capacity are Alzheimer's, dementia, or senility.
If you or other loved ones suspect that the estate planning documents are forged, you will need to seek legal counsel. If the will is forged, an attorney will review the case and challenge the will on your behalf.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
The estate's personal representative is supposed to exhibit their fiduciary duties of prudence, loyalty, and honesty. If that listed representative fails to do that and only acts with their interest in mind, you have the right to contest the estate.
How to Avoid Litigation
Losing your loved one is already a traumatic experience, and adding the stress of litigation can make things worse. Litigation also adds additional stress, but it also causes family disputes that can leave long-term scars.
As mentioned above, the best way to avoid litigation is to make sure that the testator's desires are crystal clear. Other ways to avoid these legal issues are to make sure that estate planning documents are up to date as often as possible.
Ensuring that these documents are up to date can help ensure that the testator's true desires are met. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney can also help to decrease the chance of estate litigation.
Why Hire an Estate Attorney?
It is imperative to hire an attorney knowledgeable in civil law if you and your family argue over an estate. These attorneys are very knowledgeable about private relations between family members and the laws that govern them.
Other attorneys handle criminal cases, which are not the best to hire for situations involving contested wills. It is best to hire an estate attorney because they specialize in estate planning and the claims presented when there is an estate in question.
These attorneys will be able to negotiate on your behalf. They will also help you work through the entire process without any bias because they are not subject to the case. Your attorney does not have any emotional ties to the case like you do so that they can make a more logical decision.
Solve Your Legal Issues Today
The legal issues that can arise when distributing assets can cause massive rifts in your family. When you are already dealing with the loss of a loved one, the last thing you want to do is argue over material possessions.
It is best to seek counsel as soon as possible if you are in this type of situation. A reputable estate planning attorney will be able to review your case to see what they can do to best help you. If you are looking for help with your case or more information on estate planning, contact us now.