The death of a family member always signals a change. Family dynamics can be thrown into uncharted territory, and long-standing relationships are often forced to be redefined.
Even before a loved one passes away, the emotional upheaval attached to an estate and family assets can also produce intense feelings of sadness, anger, isolation and other problems that can spill over and become legal issues.
For many people, estate matters can have long lasting consequences unless much of the emotion attached to the issue can be removed in favor of factual information or a clearly defined plan that addresses estate issues. To remove much of the emotion typically connected to this type of situation, many people turn to an experienced estate litigation attorney.
An attorney can address and resolve many of the common sticking points when it comes to resolving estate litigation issues.
Some of the more common estate litigation issues include:
Improper creation of estate documents. A will, trust and other related documents must be clear as to their intent and must be signed in the presence of two witnesses who are unrelated to the signer. In some states a notary is also required. Unless this happens, accusations of forgery can arise and the validity of the documents may be called into question.
Breach of fiduciary duty. Executors of estates have a fiduciary duty to perform their function with loyalty, honesty and the best interests of beneficiaries in mind. They must follow the directives outlined in the will or trust to the best of their ability. If this does not happen, the executor has breached his or her responsibilities.
Undue influence. This can happen when a relative applies pressure on a subject to include certain provisions in an estate plan or to make changes to an existing estate plan. The best way to keep this from happening is to only have trusted people included in the planning process.
Lack of capacity. When a person does not have the mental capacity to fully understand how their estate is being distributed, this can lead to legal challenges as well. In cases where mental competency is questionable, a medical exam may be required to determine if the claim is valid or not.
Raun Muntz O-Grady LLP serves clients in Los Angeles, Hollywood, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Anaheim, Orange County and communities throughout Southern California.