The main role of an estate litigation lawyer is the resolution of legal disputes concerning inheritance of property.
Therefore, if you have concerns regarding the distribution of the assets (cars, homes, cash, and investments) of a deceased loved, then this article is for you.
In this article, we discuss the role and duties of an estate litigation lawyer in solving inheritance disputes that arise out trusts, wills, death without a will and the interpretation of wills.
In addition, we also look into the importance of having an estate litigation lawyer to help in disputes that arise out of a will or the administration of property left by a loved one.
Furthermore, we look into the lucrative career of estate litigation lawyers and other details, such as their average yearly pay.
What is an Estate Litigation lawyer?
An estate litigation lawyer or attorney is involved in disputes concerning the property of a deceased person.
It is the work of estate litigation attorneys to help persons involved in such disputes, either by mediating the dispute or referring the dispute to a probate court.
Sometimes an estate litigation lawyer will also double up as a trust and estate litigation lawyer.
A trust is a legal way of holding property on behalf of a beneficiary.
Trusts are formed through a trust document that contains the rules of the trust, including those that a trustee must follow. For example, it is against the law for a trustee to obtain personal gains from a trust.
In a trust, a settlor or grantor is the owner of the trust. In simpler words, a settlor is the person who forms a trust.
After forming a trust, the settlor will appoint a trustee who will manage the trust on behalf of a beneficiary, who is the person who gains the benefit of the trust.
In terms of trust, estate litigation attorneys can take on the role of trustees.
As a trustee, an estate litigation attorney would help manage the assets on behalf of the beneficiaries of the trust- until the beneficiary becomes legally entitled to the management of such an asset.
Why do I need an Estate litigation attorney?
When dealing with intricate matters surrounding estates and inheritances, having the expertise of an estate litigation lawyer can be invaluable.
Estate litigation attorneys are professionals experienced in handling the estates of people who die.
Some members of the family of the deceased may wish to contest a will.
Therefore, they will need to consult an estate litigation lawyer who will then initiate a probate case in court.
It is the work of an estate litigation lawyer to prove to the court that the testator was either of sound or unsound mind during the making of the will.
The process of legally inheriting the property of a person who dies is called probate.
Estate litigation lawyers guide clients through each stage of this legal process.
The overall goal of the probate is achieving a solution that aligns with a client’s goals while minimizing the emotional and financial toll.
Understanding the Probate process
At the time of death, a person who makes a will or a trust, respectively, becomes the testator or grantor of the will or trust.
To validate a will, an estate litigation lawyer will initiate the probate process.
At the end of the process, if no one contests the contents of a will, the court will appoint a person to guide the testator’s estate through the distribution process. This person is known as an executor.
An executor or personal representative can also be created by the person who makes the will.
Additionally, an estate litigation attorney can also help families where a deceased person dies without leaving a will. In such cases, a judge will have to appoint an executor.
Family members or beneficiaries will sometimes contest such an appointment
Therefore, it is in such moments that an estate litigation attorney is most needed.
In a case where people defer as to the contents of a will or the appointed executor, the estate litigation lawyer will initiate the probate proceedings via a motion.
Other Duties of an estate litigation attorney
Will Contests and Validity Issues
Estate litigation lawyers address disputes over the validity of wills.
Some of the reasons that a will may be invalid include the following
- Where a will has not been properly executed. In such instances, the will did not have a witness or was not signed. The rules depend on one’s State and the laws set by the state.
- When it is discovered that the deceased person was influenced or lacked legal capacity at the time of creating or signing the will. This influence could be from someone who wanted to take advantage of the deceased person’s health, physical, or mental condition.
- Where a testator signs a will due to fraud or misrepresentation. For example, a child might have told her parent to sign a letter, but it was a will.
In the above instances, estate litigation lawyers will help invalidate a will by investigating claims of undue influence, lack of capacity, fraud, or improper execution to ensure the rightful distribution of assets.
Trusts can be subject to disputes regarding administration, interpretation, and trustee breaches.
Estate litigation lawyers work to resolve conflicts and uphold the intentions of the trust creator.
Estate litigation lawyers will approach a judge to remove a trustee who violates their duties as outlined in the trust document. For example, in a case where the trustee is stealing from a trust.
Conversely, a trustee can hire an estate litigation lawyer in a case where they are accused by the beneficiaries of mismanagement of a trust.
When an executor or trustee fails to fulfill their duties, estate litigation lawyers’ step in to hold them accountable and protect the interests of beneficiaries.
Guardianship and Conservatorship Disputes
In cases where individuals contest the appointment of a guardian or conservator for an incapacitated family member, estate litigation lawyers advocate for the best interests of the individual.
Intestate Succession Disputes
When someone passes away without a valid will, estate litigation lawyers assist in determining the rightful heirs according to state laws.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
In many cases, estate litigation lawyers explore alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or arbitration.
These approaches can lead to faster and less costly resolutions, fostering a more amicable atmosphere among the parties involved.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is an Estate Litigation Lawyer important for my case
Selecting the right estate litigation lawyer is important since they are needed in the process of:
- interpretation of a will,
- making of a will
- distribution of an estate where the owner dies without a will.
When selecting an estate litigation attorney, it is important to consider factors such as:
- Expertise in estate law
- Success in similar cases
- Compatibility with one’s objectives and communication style.
What is the average salary of an estate litigation lawyer?
The average annual salary of an estate litigation is approximately $148,030 or thereabouts. However, the salary will vary according to their experience and location.
Estate litigation lawyers bring a unique blend of legal knowledge and courtroom experience to navigate the complexities of estate-related conflicts.
Estate litigation lawyers play a crucial role in resolving complex legal disputes surrounding estates.
From will contests to trust disputes, their expertise ensures that the intentions of estate creators are upheld, and beneficiaries’ rights are protected.
By navigating the intricate legal landscape, estate litigation lawyers provide invaluable support during times of uncertainty and conflict.