Common Disputes That Lead to Estate Litigation
Most people assume that when they create a legal document with respect to their estate, such as a last will and testament (will) or an irrevocable living trust (trust), that it will be iron-clad and legally binding. However, in many cases, a family member or loved one does not agree with the will or trust and then attempts to dispute the estate planning document in a court of law. The most common disputes that occur regarding estates typically result from the failure of the decedent to update their estate documents after a major life event or simply from poor planning. The following are some examples of when disputes surrounding estate planning documents may lead to litigation.
Any major life change should trigger you to consider updating your estate planning documents. Second marriages are a major instance that can result in disputes after the death of a loved one regarding an estate, especially if there are children involved. Children can make the estate planning process challenging and difficult, and failing to take proper steps to ensure that their financial futures are protected can lead to substantial conflicts following your death. Additionally, even if you do update all of your documents correctly, there may be difficult and frustrated people that do not agree with the decisions that you made in your estate planning documents. These hurt feelings can oftentimes lead to litigation. Always visit with your spouse, your previous spouse, your children, and your current spouse’s children regarding your wishes to avoid any unnecessary litigation following your death.
Oftentimes the executor of the estate can become suspect. An executor of an estate is the person who administers the estate and follows the wishes of the decedent. They play an extremely pivotal and vital role in the distribution of assets. In certain cases, beneficiaries or heirs do not like how the executor is performing his or her functions and do not trust the judgment of the executor, which can lead to disputes among the beneficiaries themselves. There are cases where an executor may commit acts of fraud, deceit or make reckless decisions. These cases are rarer, however, mismanagement of estate assets is common, and in many cases results in estate litigation.
Coercion or Undue Influence
Many beneficiaries feel that their loved one that passed away was somehow unduly influenced or coerced into leaving their estate to someone else if they were not the recipient of their loved one’s assets. Elderly persons are often tricked and manipulated into changing their estate planning documents by unscrupulous people. No one should ever be forced to create documents against their will, however, in many cases, elderly people have dementia or memory loss and are not making clear decisions. Any sign of this type of fraud can be litigated by family members who believe they should be the recipients of their loved one’s estate.
Reach Out to Us Today for Help
If you believe that your loved one’s estate planning documents do not truly reflect their intentions, contact an experienced estate litigation attorney as soon as possible to help you understand your legal rights. Contact our experienced Prince Frederick estate & trust litigation attorneys serving southern Maryland at Meng Law at 410-535-5500 or online today.