What Justifies The Litigation Of An Estate?

Law Blog

Whenever someone pursues estate litigation, one of a judge's first questions will be about the case's justification. Regardless of whether you're pushing a case or trying to stop one, you need to understand what the potential justifications might be. These three are among the more common ones.

Undue Influence

Undue influence is one of the most frequent arguments against allowing the execution of an estate. This refers to the idea that a party besides the grantor of the estate unduly encouraged changes. Suppose a close relative was taking care of the grantor. During this time, the grantor also was suffering from mental decline due to age, illness, or some sort of disorder. If the grantor made unusual changes to their planning documents, an estate litigation lawyer might assert it was because the relative influenced the situation.

Notably, an undue influence argument presupposes the grantor was unable to make informed judgments due to mental impairment. If a grantor was of sound mind when they made the changes, there isn't much argument for undue influence.

Fiduciary Obligations

The popular imagination regarding estate litigation focuses on fights between family members or someone elderly getting married, changing their will, and dying soon thereafter. However, you might have to bring a case against an executor or administrator for failing in their fiduciary duties.

When someone takes on the job of administering, they accept a duty to preserve as much of its value as reasonably possible. Suppose a house fell apart due to neglect while the executor was handling the estate. The failure to use estate funds to repair the house could be a breach of fiduciary obligations. Consequently, an estate litigation attorney might demand compensation from the executor to the beneficiaries to make up for the loss.

Ambiguous, Conflicting, or Missing Clauses

Try as folks may, it can be tough to write a perfectly clear will. Usually, an executor will have enough room to interpret little problems and make adjustments. Even if an executor can't handle the problem, a probate judge should be able to.

However, there could be a problem with a will complex enough to warrant litigation. Especially if the language of the will places two sides in opposition, each may hire an estate litigation lawyer to fight it out. They will assert why one interpretation is the right one and provide evidence and testimony to that effect. A judge will then have to determine which one is right and order the executor to act accordingly.

For more information, contact an estate litigation attorney near you.

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