Contesting a will or a trust can
be a very specialized area of law and that is why it is important to have a law firm
that has experience in handling these matters on your side.
Our estate litigation attorneys are not only skilled at handling cases involving estate and trust disputes,
they draw on a thorough knowledge base of the specific procedures surrounding these
issues. The Andersen Firm can efficiently take each case through to completion realizing
that full blown litigation often can be avoided if we work diligently to come to resolution.
The estate litigation attorneys at The Andersen Firm represent beneficiaries, trustees and personal representatives in various jurisdictions dealing with estate litigation and probate litigation matters.
A will contest challenges the admission of a will to probate or seeks to revoke the probate of a will that is already pending before the probate court.
A similar type of estate litigation can take place contesting the terms of a trust. The most common causes of action in both will contests and estate litigation follow.
- Lack of Capacity
Under the law, a testator is required to have mental competency to make a last will and testament or trust and to understand the nature of his or her estate assets and the people to whom the estate assets are going to be distributed. A will or trust can be declared void if lack of capacity can be proven. Usually, incompetence is established through a prior medical diagnosis of dementia, senility, Alzheimer’s or psychosis.
- Undue Influence
When the testator is compelled or coerced to execute a will or trust as a result of improper pressure exerted on him or her, by a relative, friend, trusted advisor, or health care worker, a cause of action arises. In many cases, the undue influencer will upset a long established estate plan where the bulk of the estate was to pass to the descendants or close relatives of the decedent. In other cases, one child of the decedent will coerce the decedent to write the other children out of the will or trust.
- Lack of Formalities
Proper execution of a last will and testament or trust requires that the will or trust be signed by the testator and witnessed and signed by two unrelated parties. A last will and testament can be contested on the basis that it was not properly drafted, signed, or witnessed in accordance with the law.
- Breach of Fiduciary Duty
The personal representative of an estate or the trustee of a trust owes the beneficiaries of the estate or trust certain fiduciary duties of honesty, prudence and loyalty. When those duties are violated by a trustee or personal representative, a cause of action arises.
- Elective Share
Some states provide an elective share to surviving spouses, which provides the surviving spouse with a portion of the deceased spouse’s estate according to a statutory formula. Deadlines may be associated to make the elective share.
- Forged Documents
Documents can be forged to create unintentional outcomes with the intent to deceive. When documents appear altered or falsified, a cause of action arises.