Question: What are some of the reasons for estate or “probate” litigation?
Answer: When someone dies, the probate process often begins. Probate is the process of identifying and inventorying assets of the deceased, appraising the property, paying debts and taxes and distributing the property in accordance with the Will.
Some reasons for litigation:
1. Breach of fiduciary duty: Is the Personal Representative acting in the best interests of the estate beneficiaries? The Personal Representative may have stolen funds, used estate funds improperly, or even potentially invested funds improperly.
2. Will Contest: Did the testator sign his Will under coercion or duress? Did the testator have capacity to sign his Will or was the testator forced into signing something that he didn’t understand or didn’t wish to do?
3. Intestacy: Was there a Will? If not, state law determines how property is distributed to the heirs. If the decedent passed away with no Will, litigation might result to figure out who should inherit.
Comment: Conflicts among heirs frequently arise when an estate plan is not properly drawn up and executed.
As always, if you have any questions or would like to learn more, please let me know.
ABOUT STEVE SHANE
Steve Shane provides strategic counseling to clients in need of estate administration, charitable giving and business continuity planning while minimizing estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax exposure. He offers legal guidance to clients on asset protection and the proper disposition of assets in accordance with the client’s objectives, while employing tax planning techniques such as the use of irrevocable trusts, life insurance planning, lifetime gifts and charitable trust. He is also experienced with drafting documents for business planning, the incorporation and application for exemption for Private Foundations and the administration of decedents’ estates.
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