Although many Long Island estates go through probate and administration without encountering any roadblocks, it is not uncommon for estate planning cases to end up in litigation, which can be a lengthy and costly process. Hiring an experienced estate litigation attorney is critical in these situations.
Below you’ll find answers to the most commonly asked questions regarding estate litigation.
What is Estate Litigation?
When the inheritance of valuable property is in question, emotions flare, and disagreements arise. Any disputes involving an estate’s execution, distribution, or administration will generally require court intervention, referred to as estate litigation. These disputes typically involve challenges to the will of the deceased. Displeased beneficiaries may seek to change the will or have it nullified and declared void.
Who Can Challenge a Will?
As previously stated, named beneficiaries who perceive property and asset distribution as unfair may pursue estate litigation. However, one must not be explicitly named as a beneficiary to challenge a will legally. Any individual who can provide valid documentation establishing a right or interest in the estate is eligible to initiate litigation. In other words, they may argue that they were improperly excluded from the will and are entitled to a portion of the estate. Delicate situations such as these unquestionably require the assistance of an estate litigation attorney.
What Are Some of the Possible Challenges to a Will?
Suitability of the Executor
A common challenge in estate litigation proceedings is that the named executor of the will is unsuitable for the position. Someone may argue this because the individual in question has improperly administered the deceased’s estate by misallocating funds, failing to distribute the property according to the will’s instructions, engaging in imprudent investments, etc. An executor of a will can also be deemed unsuitable due to personal factors that question his or her character and judgment. It may include drug abuse, a history of alcoholism, and a criminal record, among others.
The Original Will Is Not Available
Another common challenge to a will in estate litigation arises when the original document cannot be located. Regardless of whether it has been misplaced or destroyed, the absence of this document can lead to serious problems and require complicated legal procedures. In some states, the law asserts that if the original will is lost, it is automatically revoked. Working with an experienced estate litigation attorney is crucial in such cases.
The Mental Capacity of the Person Who Created the Will Is Doubtful
If it can be proven that the mental capacity of the individual who drafted the will was insufficient, the will is considered null and void. Nonetheless, this is also a lengthy and complex process, requiring the testimony of every individual in close contact with the deceased at or around the time they made the will. Medical records may also come into play, especially if the deceased received mental health care or was prescribed psychiatric medications.
Undue Influence by a Third Party
This challenge can be closely related to the one previously mentioned. If the maker of the will lacked the mental capacity, someone close to them might have exerted influence over the specific terms of the will. This type of challenge generally asserts that the individual accused of undue influence did so intending to receive a substantial benefit from the will.
Regardless of the particular challenge, tackling an estate litigation case alone is not a feasible endeavor. An estate litigation lawyer with ample experience can ease the burden of the situation and help navigate the process effectively.
What Happens If the Deceased Did Not Leave a Will?
In the total absence of a will, it is difficult to prove how the deceased individual intended to distribute the property. In New York, if the decendent did not leave a Will then the assets get distributed by New York State Intestate Law. Since there was no will in place, it is difficult to determine who the Will would have appointed to be the administrator of the estate. Family members can resolve these unanswered questions without engaging in estate litigation if they can agree. However, that is rarely the case. When there is no will, litigation is often unavoidable.
What Are Some Other Common Reasons for Estate Litigation?
Estate litigation may also be necessary if a creditor files a claim against the estate. Although less common, claims against the estate can also be filed by a former business partner of the deceased. Additionally, any unsolved tax issues can also lead to estate litigation.
Consider Sheryll Law, P.C. for Your Estate Litigation Needs on the East End of Long Island
Searching for “estate litigation attorney near me?” Consider Sheryll Law, P.C. Unlike most law firms, where estate planning is treated as an afterthought, at Sheryll Law, P.C., estate planning and other closely-related fields make up the entirety of our practice. Due to our extensive experience with every aspect of estate planning, including estate litigation, we are uniquely positioned to help clients on the East End of Long Island create detailed plans and navigate any complicated legal proceedings.
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