It is important to differentiate estate litigation from real estate litigation.
Real estate litigation involves disputes concerning ownership or purchase of property. Estate litigation is a whole other subject on its own.
Estate litigation is a complex process that usually happens upon the death of the estate’s owner.
The complexity of estate litigation will involve the process of dividing the estate of the deceased.
Moreover, in some cases, the deceased may have died intestate (without a will) or with due debts.
Thus, this process can involve a lot of emotional outbursts that may create disputes, animosity, and resentment among the people supposed to inherit a deceased person’s estate.
Therefore, one must consult an estate litigation attorney for advice on what to do or the best possible solutions.
An estate litigation attorney is a legal professional who specializes in resolving conflicts that arise from the death or incapacity of an individual about their assets.
Estate litigation lawyers have extensive knowledge of trust and estate law, as well as experience in probate, civil, and appellate courts.
In this article, we will explain what the process of estate litigation entails.
Additionally, in this article, we also advise on why it is important to have an estate litigation attorney as well as how to find one that suits your needs.
What is Estate Litigation?
Estate litigation involves the process of property inheritance.
In some cases, the process of estate litigation will carry on seamlessly.
However, in some cases, estate disputes arise when the executor of the estate implements the wishes of the deceased person.
In some other cases, disputes can arise between beneficiaries of the estate.
These disputes will usually be about the division of the estate or debts that were accrued by the deceased.
Therefore, estate litigation is the legal process that arises from claims, objections to claims, causes of action, or any litigation that can be asserted on the estate of the deceased person.
Estate litigation is also the process of resolving legal disputes over estate and trust assets or distributions.
Parties that can bring up any cause of action against the property of a deceased person include beneficiaries, heirs, executors, trustees, creditors, guardians, conservators, or charities.
Estate litigation can also involve various issues, such as:
Usually, the validity of a will be challenged by parties listed above based on factors such as
- undue influence
- unsuitable estate executor
- lack of capacity
- improper execution.
To challenge trust, one can raise the same grounds as similar grounds as will contests.
Breach of fiduciary duty
An executor or trustee can initiate the estate litigation process when they fail to act in the best interests of the estate or trust beneficiaries.
The estate litigation process will arise when parties are requesting or disputing the financial records of an estate or trust administration.
A breach of fiduciary duty by trustees or an executor can lead to accounting disputes with the beneficiaries.
Removal of fiduciaries
When beneficiaries of an estate are seeking to remove or replace an executor, trustee, or other fiduciary for misconduct or incompetence.
It is always important to settle the process through a court order.
Interpretation of wills or trusts
In some cases, beneficiaries will dispute the validity of a will.
Therefore, they will seek the court to interpret, clarify, or enforce the terms of a will or trust.
Additionally, in cases where the deceased died without a will, it is important to initiate the estate litigation process. At the end of this process, the courts will divide the estate on behalf of all entitled persons.
Estate litigation can help in asserting or defending the rights of a surviving spouse to a share of the deceased spouse’s estate.
In cases where the beneficiaries are disputing debts owed by the deceased, estate litigation can help to assert or defend the claims of creditors against an estate or trust.
Guardianship or conservatorship disputes
When a deceased person dies but the beneficiaries are minors or incapacitated, an estate litigation process should be initiated.
Such people can seek or oppose the appointment of a guardian or conservator.
How Can an Estate Litigation Lawyer Help You?
An estate litigation lawyer can help you protect your rights and interests by:
- Advising on legal options and strategies
- Gathering and analyzing evidence and documents
- Negotiating with other parties or their attorneys or representatives.
- Representing you in mediation or arbitration
- Filing motions and pleadings in court
- Conducting discovery and depositions
- Preparing and presenting a case at trial
- Appealing an unfavorable decision
Therefore, an estate litigation lawyer helps prevent or minimize the risk of litigation by:
- Drafting clear and valid wills and trusts
- Reviewing existing wills and trusts for potential issues
- Advising you on tax and estate planning matters
- Communicating with beneficiaries and fiduciaries
- Resolving conflicts before they escalate
How to Find an Estate Litigation Lawyer?
Finding a qualified and trustworthy estate litigation lawyer can be challenging.
However, it is important to find an attorney who has good faith and the necessary skills, experience, and reputation to handle your case effectively.
Additionally, one should hire someone compatible with their personality, goals, and budget.
Here are some tips on how to find an estate litigation lawyer:
- Ask for referrals from friends, family, colleagues, or other professionals who have dealt with estate disputes or have worked with estate lawyers.
- Search online for estate litigation lawyers in your area. You can use websites such as Super Lawyers or Loeb & Loeb LLP to find lawyers who have been rated by their peers and clients.
- Check the credentials and reviews of potential lawyers. You can use websites such as [Avvo] or [Martindale-Hubbell] to find lawyers who have been licensed, certified, rated, and reviewed by their peers and clients.
- Contact several attorneys and schedule initial consultations. You can use this opportunity to ask questions about their qualifications, experience, fees, availability, communication style, and approach to your case.
- Compare and contrast the lawyers you have consulted with. You can use criteria such as expertise, reputation, rapport, fees, and results to evaluate which lawyer is best suited for your case.
From the foregoing, estate litigation is a complex and sensitive process that requires the assistance of a skilled and experienced lawyer.
It can also have significant consequences for the distribution of assets and the relationships among family members.
Therefore, it is important to seek legal advice and representation from an experienced estate litigation lawyer if you are involved in or anticipate an estate dispute.
An estate litigation attorney can help you resolve disputes over wills, trusts, estates, guardianships, conservatorships, and other related matters.
Consequently, hiring an estate litigation lawyer can also help prevent or reduce the likelihood of litigation by providing sound legal advice and drafting clear and valid documents.
If you are looking for an estate litigation lawyer, you can use the tips above to find one who meets your needs and expectations.