Given an opportunity to avoid it, most of us do not want our family and loved ones fighting over our possessions after we die. A proper estate plan prepared by an experienced attorney can often reduce the chance that a dispute will arise after death. Furthermore, an experienced attorney can suggest steps that can be taken during the planning process to head off a possible challenge or to prepare evidence that would be helpful in the event of such a challenge. Nonetheless, sometimes a challenge to an estate plan or to the administration of an estate or trust is unavoidable. At that time, it is important to hire an attorney to represent your interests in the estate or trust.
Challenges to a Will or Trust often involve claims of incompetence or undue influence. Estate plans (Wills and Trusts) that are made later in life or that deviate from prior plans or that do not follow usual distributions to family member are often the target of such claims. While there are often good explanations for a change to a plan or for one person receiving all or the majority of a decedent’s assets, other times there may be more nefarious reasons why the plan was created or changed. Successful claims for undue influence or incapacity require specific types of proof. Whether you are challenging the Will or Trust or are defending against such claims, you should have an attorney with experience in the area gather and obtain the necessary evidence and to present that evidence to a judge or jury. Such information may come from family members, friends, medical providers or other professionals. Medical records may need to be obtained and carefully reviewed. Experts may need to be engaged. We can provide you with legal representation to enforce your rights in the estate or trust.
Sometimes the dispute is not about the estate plan, but rather about how the estate or trust is being administered. Proper administration of an estate or trust can often avoid such a dispute. Providing the heirs, devisees and beneficiaries with ongoing information concerning the assets and their administration can usually avoid the suspicions that lead to disputes over estate and trust administration. We can help with proper administration that will go a long way to avoiding disputes about the administration. See Probate and Trust Administration. Sometimes, however, trustees and personal representatives charged with administering an estate or trust do not do their jobs properly or take advantage of their positions. In that case, it is important to engage an attorney who knows your rights and can protect them for you, whether by filing a lawsuit with a court or otherwise resolving the issues. We can help by first addressing the concerns with the trustee or personal representative to help them to understand and comply with their obligations as fiduciaries. If that does not work, we can file suit to seeking to compel compliance with their duties or to have them removed and a better fiduciary appointed.
Whether it is a dispute concerning the handling of an estate or trust, and whether you are the one bringing the claim or defending against the claim, we can help to provide the advice and gather the evidence necessary to competently pursue your case.