What is Estate Litigation And Why Might I Need it?

Complications surrounding the Last Will and Testament of a family member has lead to many a lawsuit. With money, property, and family relationships at stake, such cases can be extremely complicated, financially, legally, and emotionally. 

What are the circumstances typically surrounding estate litigation, and why might you need an estate lawyer?

Why You May Need Estate Litigation

Estate planning is a way to make legal arrangements for the distribution of property and other assets after death. The author of the document outlines what assets exist and to whom they will be entrusted once he has died. 

Unfortunately, in many cases, not all family members or related parties are satisfied with the deceased’s will or trust. 

In other instances, the deceased may not have drawn up a will at all, or the documents that have been created are less than comprehensive. 

Here are the two circumstances in which you may need estate litigation: 

  • You want to contest the terms of a family member’s will.

OR

  • You are a trustee, heir, or beneficiary and need to defend your inheritance which has been contested.  

Why might a will or trust be challenged? 

A trust document or will may be legally challenged in cases including:
  • Document Forgery – If an involved party alleges the will or trust has been forged, the document can be contested in court, and in some circumstances, a criminal case may ensue. 
  • Informal Documents – If the author of the will failed to abide by state guidelines when drawing up the document, it can be challenged as legally-binding.
  • Lack of Capacity – If a related party alleges that the author of the will or trust was not mentally capable of making comprehensive decisions regarding his estate due to pre-documented medical diagnosis, the will or trust may be contested. 
  • Undue Influence (Coercion) – If an involved party suspects that a specific family member or even unrelated party (i.e. friend, doctor, etc.) has exerted ‘undue influence’ or even coerced the author of the will to apportion his assets in a way that is considered unusual or unorthodox, the document may be challenged.
  • Elective Share – If the attribution of the estate has excluded a surviving spouse or his/her share of assets has not been allotted within a certain time frame, the spouse may initiate litigation to get his/her rightful share. 
  • Breach of Fiduciary Responsibility – Fiduciary duty “refers to…a relationship in which one person has a responsibility of care for the assets or rights of another person,” explains HG.org Legal Resources. “Essentially, a fiduciary must act in the best interest of the person or entity to which he owes the fiduciary duty, even if that is not in his own best interest.”

Whether you are contesting or defending a trust or will, why should you invest in an estate lawyer? 

Why Get an Estate Lawyer

Before you initiate the litigation process on your own, take time to consider the risks involved.

Factors that play into estate litigation include: 
  • The massive financial implications 
  • The complicated web of procedures and laws
  • The sensitivities of family dynamics
  • The state and federal tax considerations 

In view of the seriousness of estate litigation, one way to help protect your assets and minimize emotional turmoil is to invest in an experienced estate lawyer to guide you through the process.

Tulsa, Oklahoma Estate Lawyer

The team of attorneys at Reddy & Feldhake, P.C. specializes in family law and provides level-headed legal advice customized to the complexity of each case. 

Get started by scheduling a free 30-minute consultation.

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