Your estate, or the estate of a loved one, is important to you and your family from the sense of tradition, family history, and acknowledging your or your loved one’s hard work in earning all that he or she had accumulated during life.
The last thing anyone wants is someone interfering in that estate who is not trusted to do the right things with the estate.
Unfortunately, that situation may arise if your deceased loved one did not have a properly executed estate plan in place. And when an estate plan is not present, inevitably there can be trouble with loved ones and friends each wanting to lay claim to some part of the estate.
Or there may even be a legal challenge to the estate plan or will itself, with a loved one pressing to have the document deemed invalid for some reason, throwing the entire estate into chaos. Don’t let this be the legacy that you leave for your family when you pass away – brother against sister, children against parents, cousins against nephews.
Estate Ligitation – Standing Up For What’s Right
In these cases, when an estate is being challenged in some direction, depending on your role, you may want to fight for your rights or defend the estate from these types of claims. Whichever side of the claim you are on, you have just entered the area of estate litigation, of which our firm specializes.
No matter if you are defending the estate or making a claim against it, we have the experience you need to fight for what’s right and to work out a quick solution that will meet all the needs and satisfy all interests in a proper resolution of the estate.
Litigation should always be the last resort when it comes to estate conflicts. Having an estate plan eliminates many of those disagreements, but of course there may still be some issues that may warrant an estate being challenged even if a plan is in place.
Why Litigate an Estate?
Most estate plans that are well-designed are locked up tight from a legal perspective and very rarely have effective challenges against them. But if a plan is not well-designed or is poorly executed, there may be some claims that could win against an estate. The two most commons claims are:
- Undue influence: This claim may arise if there is substantial evidence that a will or other estate document was changed under duress, stress or coercion by another party, and was not made by the estate-holder’s own free will; and
- Incompetence: If the estate-holder has some kind of mental disorder that prevents him or her from making sound decisions for his or her own benefit and this can be proved to be present during the time in which the estate plan was being formulated, a claim could be made to deem the estate invalid for that purpose.
Not only can the estate be contested, but a will may also be questioned. A will may be constested in one of these ways:
- A will was executed contrary to state law;
- A will was shown to have been revoked after it was signed; or
- A will is fraudulent because of evidence that the estate-owner was misled in some way.
Whether you are facing a contested will or estate and having to defend it, or if you have a claim to make, we have skilled litigators who will know your case and will advise you on the best path forward to fight for what is right with the estate.
There is Another Option
Lest you believe that the only option when there is a claim made against an estate is to go to court, we know of another option. After all, we consider litigation as last resort, so we want to exercise all other options first. And one of those options is a process called mediation.
Mediation is a form of negotiation between two parties, where both sides discuss their needs in the case and a mediator (a professional “referee,” if you will) meets with the two sides and brokers an agreement where there are areas of compromise.
This can be the least expensive and more civil way to resolve a case regarding an estate, and it is the one that seems to be the best way to preserve those friendships and relationships that would be adversely affected by hearings and motions in a courtroom.
Our estate litigation professionals will stand up for you in a courtroom, but they are also skilled negotiators on your behalf in a mediation setting, so the case gets resolved in a fair manner so both sides get something they want – plus the bonus of an intact relationship.
Expect the Best, Prepare for the Worst
The very best way to avoid estate challenges is by planning ahead and having a sound estate plan in place. But if it’s a little too late for that, and you may have some chaos on your hands, it’s a good idea to have an estate litigation attorney on your side to defend your rights and those of the estate when necessary.
If there is a way to employ mediation to solve the dispute, we will generally advise that first before the expense of a court battle. Either way, you can trust that you will be represented with strength, a high level of ethics but with compassion, knowing that the circumstances of your case are often emotionally painful.
Contact our office today for a free consultation regarding your case and let us serve your needs in ensuring a respectful resolution of an estate for the sake of you and your loved ones.