Estate Litigation

estate litigation lawyerWhen someone dies their assets become the property of their estate. If the person who dies has a will, the individual in charge of carrying out the terms of the will is called an executor. The will names the person who will serve as executor. The will usually names an alternate executor if the first named executor is unable to serve.

Will Disputes

Sometimes there are disputes among loved ones, friends, and/or family members regarding issues involving the preparation of the will and/or the terms of the will. When disputes occur between beneficiaries or heirs regarding the terms of a will, a spouse’s right to inherit or issues involving the actions or lack of action of the executor, these disputes can result in estate litigation.

Amicably Resolving Estate Issues

Initially attempts should be made to amicably resolve all disputes to avoid an estate litigation lawsuit. Estate litigation will delay the beneficiaries’ receiving what they are entitled to under the terms of the will. It will also create extra expenses for the estate and other interested parties.

There are a variety of types of litigation which can occur in an estate. The following are a list of some of these types of litigation:

  • A will contest. This can involve a challenge to set aside the will. The grounds can be that the will was not properly executed. There can also be allegations of fraud, duress, lack of competency to make the will, undue influence, allegations the will was not properly signed, allegations the will is a forgery, and/or the will is not clear in its terms.
  •   Breach of fiduciary obligations. Executors of wills, trustees of trusts, and administrators of intestate estates (estates where there is no will), are all fiduciaries. They have an obligation to act in the best interests of the estate and are held to a very high standard concerning their actions. Fiduciaries can be removed for failure to properly act regarding the assets of the estate, mismanaging the assets of the estate, improperly taking the assets of the estate, and other reasons related to negligence or improper actions.
  • Challenges to trusts. If the terminology of the trust is not clear, legal action can be taken to deal with this issue.
  • Claims against estates. Lawsuits can be brought by creditors concerning money owed by the decedent to the creditors.
  • Wrongful death claims. Litigation can be brought by family members against persons, corporations or other entities who caused the death of the decedent. This can also include actions for medical malpractice. The proceeds received from wrongful death claims and medical malpractice awards become assets of the estate.
  • Accounting proceedings. These are proceedings initiated to force a fiduciary to produce financial information with regard to how the estate’s assets, investments, tax issues and expenses were dealt with during the term the executor managed the estate.
  • Guardianship proceedings. When parents die without leaving a will, or become unable to care for a child during their lifetime, guardianship proceedings become necessary to appoint a relative or other family member to take care of the child during the term of the child’s minority. Guardianship proceedings can also be brought for special individuals who may never become competent to take care of themselves. Guardianship proceedings can also be brought on behalf of seniors who develop infirmities with age and are unable to take care of themselves or their litigation attorney on Long Island and New York City