Inheritance Disputes 

Inheritance disputes can pose a harsh disruption to the trust administration or probate process, which usually arises when the beneficiaries or family members of a deceased individual disagree on how to distribute the estate, ranging from contests regarding the terms of a will or trust to disputes over entitlements to assets. Our lawyers at RMO have extensive experience in inheritance litigation, understanding how to navigate these sensitive issues to bring the best possible resolution for all parties. 

What Are Inheritance Disputes 

Inheritance disputes are disagreements or contests that arise during estate or trust administration. These disputes can include disputes over the actions of an executor or trustee, contests over entitlements to an inheritance distribution, disagreements over the interpretation of a will or trust, and more. 

Beneficiaries, heirs, and fiduciaries can bring disputes if they disagree with the terms of a will or aspects of the probate process. 

In California and Texas, some estates are not always required to pass through a formal probate process if there is a will. A trust also avoids the legal probate process. This can lead to assets being distributed to heirs with little supervision from the court and may require more due diligence from other interested parties to ensure that the heirs receive the inheritances they’re entitled to.

Legal intervention in resolving these disputes is often crucial for bringing about a favorable resolution while preserving the intentions of the will. Given the tense and often contentious nature of these disputes, an inheritance dispute lawyer can play a valuable role in navigating the complexities and bringing about a fair resolution.

What Do Inheritance Disputes Entail?

Managing inheritance disputes varies depending on the nature of the disagreement and the steps required to achieve an appropriate resolution. Our lawyers at RMO offer support in all the following aspects of inheritance disputes.

Understanding Inheritance Disputes

Inheritance disputes can arise for a variety of reasons. Here are a few of the most common factors we see contribute to inheritance disputes.

Absence of Estate Planning Documents

Having proper estate planning documents is crucial for averting inheritance conflicts. Without these documents, there’s no clear direction on asset distribution. Among the essential documents to prevent disputes is a will or trust. If a person passes away without a will, the estate falls under intestacy rules determined by the state.

Will Disagreements

Even with a will in place, disputes over the estate can still arise. Common issues with wills include:

  • Dated wills that don’t reflect the deceased’s current wishes
  • Changes in circumstances since the will’s creation (e.g., remarriage or birth of a child)
  • Verbal expressions of different wishes by the deceased before passing
  • Distribution of assets to someone other than the spouse
  • Omission of assets for the deceased’s children in a second marriage
  • Invalidity of the will due to non-compliance with California or Texas codes and laws.

Perceived Inequality

Another prevalent cause of inheritance disputes is the perception of unfairness. For instance, if a deceased individual leaves significantly more assets to one child than to another, the disadvantaged child may contest the estate distribution.

Another frequent dispute we see is when an heir is not included as a beneficiary or their share is reduced.

These disputes can come as difficult obstacles to the trust or estate administration process—our team works to resolve them amicably through mediation or litigation.

Key Players in Inheritance Disputes

A key first step in an inheritance dispute is identifying all the interested parties. These disputes can involve:

Beneficiaries: Those entitled to receive assets from the deceased’s estate, as specified in the estate plan.

Heir: Those entitled to receive from the estate without the presence of an estate plan

Personal Representative: Broad term encompassing both executors and administrators managing a deceased person’s estate.

Executor: Person named in a will to carry out its provisions and administer the estate, who must be appointed by a court to have any authority to act on behalf of the estate.

Administrator: Person not named in a will because either there is no will or the named executor(s) of a will deceased or otherwise cannot serve, who must be appointed by a court to have any authority to act on behalf of the estate.

Trustees: If trusts are involved, trustees oversee the management and distribution of trust assets.

Creditors: an individual or entity to whom the deceased owed a debt at the time of their death. 

Other interested parties: Others, including relatives who may have an interest in the estate or who may challenge its distribution.

Legal Procedures for Resolving Inheritance Disputes

Common procedures for resolving these disputes include dispute resolution like mediation or arbitration and oftentimes require litigation. The appropriate avenue depends on the family dynamic and the nature of the disagreement. RMO Lawyers have experience managing each of these steps in order to support clients and bring the best result for their situation.

The Importance of Early Legal Intervention

Early legal intervention is crucial in inheritance disputes, especially as varying statutes of limitations for inheritance disputes exist in each jurisdiction. Our lawyers provide guidance and support to resolve the dispute as soon as possible and preserve the interests of the trustor or decedent.

Common Inheritance Disputes Scenarios

Inheritance disputes can take many forms and look different depending on the case and the nature of the disagreement. At RMO Lawyers, we provide support in all the following scenarios.

Contesting a Will: Grounds and Procedures

Interested parties to an estate have the right to contest a will. However, they must still have legal grounds for doing so. Generally speaking, a testator or trustor may leave their property to whomever they wish, regardless of the typical succession of assets. They may leave assets to a friend over a family member or disinherit a family member altogether, whether they be a spouse, child, or sibling.  An interested party cannot challenge a will simply because they want more money from the estate, they must have a reason to believe that the distribution was, in some way, unlawfully altered, whether that be through undue influence, fraud, or any other legal means. 

Our team at RMO Lawyers can support beneficiaries in understanding whether they have standing to pursue a will contest and how to navigate the appropriate processes. We also have significant experience representing personal representatives in successfully defending will contents. 

Contesting A Trust

Trust contests may arise in a range of scenarios, like when there is a lack of clarity over language in the trust or a concern surrounding the ability of a trustee to carry out their duties. Our lawyers offer support in trust contests to safeguard client interests and resolve disputes as effectively as possible. (Add link to new Trust Contest Page)

Undue Influence in Inheritance: Identifying and Addressing Coercion

Unfortunately, bad actors can attempt to influence trustees, trustors, executors, or testators for personal gain, using coercion for actions that conflict with the interests of the estate. Our team at RMO Lawyers will work to identify cases of undue influence, build a case against alleged perpetrators, and pursue appropriate restitution for all parties.

Executor Mismanagement and Breach of Fiduciary Duty

Cases may arise where executors fail to fulfill their fiduciary duty by irresponsibly managing assets or acting in their own interests over those of the beneficiaries. Our attorneys ensure that executors understand their fiduciary duty and represent beneficiaries to seek restitution against trustees who fail to do so.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty by Trustees or Personal Representatives

A breach of fiduciary duty by trustees or executors is a common source of inheritance disputes, as they can threaten the interests of beneficiaries and heirs in cases of self-dealing, negligence, or mismanagement of assets. RMO Lawyers have a strong track record of supporting beneficiaries in these cases and pursuing appropriate restitution for the estate.

Inheritance Theft and Misappropriation: Legal Remedies and Recovery

Inheritance theft is deeply harmful to the interests of a testator and the estate. The actions needed to address the theft depend on the manner the assets were taken. For example, it’s possible that someone unlawfully coerced your loved one into altering their will prior to their passing, or they may have forged a will designating your inheritance to them. Inheritance theft can also occur after death if someone wrongfully takes a physical item left to you in the will or if the executor misuses the assets of the deceased individual.

Each situation is unique, so it is crucial to speak with an experienced probate litigation lawyer about your case. Our RMO attorneys will review the circumstances of your case and advise you on the best course of action.

When Should I Contact An Attorney For Inheritance Disputes & Theft?

Inheritance disputes can be complex processes, and finding an appropriate resolution is not always straightforward. An inheritance litigation attorney can provide guidance in resolving disputes to bring the best possible resolution for all parties and in alignment with the interests of the trustor or testator.

You should contact an inheritance attorney when:

  • You feel that you have been excluded from a will or trust
  • You disagree with the division of assets laid out in a will or trust
  • There is ambiguity within a will or trust
  • You have concerns with the conduct of a trustee or executor

If you have any questions surrounding the administration of an inheritance, schedule a consultation with us at RMO Lawyers to understand your options. Whether you are a beneficiary or a trustee with concerns about the rightful distribution of assets in a will or trust, we can help.

Our Case Results

RMO has a proven track record of protecting people and defending legacies.

Summary Adjudication of Disinherited Beneficiary’s Trust Contest
Swiftly secured the dismissal of a trust contest of a disgruntled, disinherited trust beneficiary on a motion after strategically allowing the trust contest period to expire before serving a notice of proposed action to distribute trust assets to the trust’s remaining beneficiaries and nothing to the disinherited beneficiary.
Secured Family’s Business Legacy
Representing the successor family trustee, secured the generational family business for the decedent’s heirs by acquiring from a disgruntled beneficiary their interest in the family business on extremely favorable terms that will allow the family to continue operating the family business for future generations to come.
Defense of Financial Elder Abuse Claim Against Surviving Spouse Trustee
Successfully defended a surviving spouse trustee against financial elder abuse and other claims made by family members who said she had fraudulently transferred assets to herself from her late husband’s trust and estate.
Prevented Trustee Removal for Badly-Lawyered Trust Accounting
Staved off suspension, removal and surcharge for a trustee who had failed to properly or timely provide court-ordered trust accountings to trust beneficiaries and was staring down an imminent deadline, as well as suspension, removal and surcharge.
Trustee Removal for Fraud
Neutralized and secured removal of a hostile co-trustee who was attempting to bilk our client’s trust of millions of dollars through a series of fabricated claims.
Thieving Trustee Removed and Surcharged
Secured removal of a thieving co-trustee daughter whose malfeasance left her own mother destitute and unable to pay her bills, including recovery of the stolen assets, attorney fees and costs.
Trust Beneficiary Dispute Squashed & Partition Avoided
Swooped in on behalf of an institutional trustee after years of protracted litigation to secure a decision from the Los Angeles probate court to end a years-long dispute between feuding siblings over the distribution of their parents’ estate, avoiding distribution of assets in-kind, which would have only resulted in partition.
Sub-Trust Allocations Defended
Client’s mother survived step-dad and succeeded him as trustee of their family trust. After mom passed, step-dad’s children alleged she had improperly allocated trust assets to favor her survivor’s trust, which went to our client, over the marital trust, which went to step-dad’s children. Using historic appraisals and valuations, demonstrated the disputed allocation was reasonable, resolving the dispute.
Inept Trustee Removed & Client Appointed Successor Trustee to Save Estate
Non-responsive and ineffective trustee who had done little to nothing to administer the trust or protect trust assets from waste following decedent’s passing was removed and our client appointed as successor trustee by the probate court, avoiding further damage.
Racist Trustee Removed and Surcharged
Removed and obtained surcharge of a non-beneficiary family trustee who hurled racial epthets at our client, refused to account, and tried to sell the house intended for our sole trust beneficiary client out of spite, securing the home for our client and her family.
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Who Can Hire An Inheritance Disputes & Theft Attorney?

Inheritance disputes can affect a range of different parties who have an interest in a trust or will and don’t want to navigate the process alone. At RMO Lawyers, our inheritance dispute attorneys support all the following clients.


Beneficiaries have unique interests in the assets of an estate as outlined by a will or other estate planning documents and may raise disputes about their entitlement to the assets of an estate. Our team at RMO Lawyers can represent beneficiaries to support them in navigating the dispute process and securing their rightful inheritance.


Heirs to an estate have unique rights to an inheritance, and they may raise disputes around their entitlement to assets, the provision of assets to disqualified persons, or the context surrounding the creation of a will entirely. RMO Lawyers can represent heirs to resolve these disputes and carry out the interests of the estate.


Trustees may be at the center of an inheritance dispute if a beneficiary, heir, or other party takes issue with the trust administration process. Our attorneys can support trustees in understanding their legal responsibilities in trust administration and provide representation in resolving disputes.


Successor trustees may seek the support of an inheritance dispute attorney to ensure fulfillment of the estate planning documents and any fiduciary duties. This is important especially if a party suspects a trustee is breaching their fiduciary duty or if they need legal guidance navigating disputes in their new role. RMO Lawyers can provide this support.


If a testator owes debts at the time of their debts, those they owe debts to may raise a dispute to resolve them. Our lawyers can help creditors follow the appropriate steps to assert their claims and obtain access to their rightful distribution.


Executors have a responsibility to help manage disputes between interested parties in a will. They may also find themselves at the center of a dispute if other parties suspect a breach of fiduciary duty. RMO inheritance litigation attorneys can support executors in defense against breaches of fiduciary duty and provide guidance in their disputes.


Other interested parties in an inheritance dispute may include guardians or conservators or organizations listed as beneficiaries in estate planning documents. Our attorneys at RMO can provide representation and legal guidance to ensure these parties have the support necessary to raise and navigate an inheritance dispute.


Be advised that the RMO Client Relations Team will reach out prior to your scheduled time, as our policy requires that we gather additional information concerning the parties to your case before we can confirm your consultation. In the event that we are unable to reach you, regrettably, we will need to cancel your requested consultation.

Communication Disclaimer

Please note that communications by you to RMO LLP or any of its lawyers through this website do not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the firm. Do not send any privileged or confidential information to the firm through this website or otherwise until instructed in writing from us to do so. 

FAQs About Inheritance Disputes

If you are experiencing unequal inheritance between you and your siblings, you should contact an experienced probate litigation attorney. First, the attorney will likely conduct a thorough investigation and analysis of the relevant legal documents and laws to determine the validity of the unequal distribution. They will give you a fair and objective opinion on the validity of your claim.

If a valid claim exists, an attorney can represent the disadvantaged sibling by potentially contesting the will or trust through legal avenues such as alleging undue influence, lack of capacity, or fraud.

If you suspect your inheritance has been stolen, you should immediately contact an experienced probate litigation attorney. They will assist you in comprehending the legal avenues and evidence needed to successfully reclaim your inheritance. 

The approach to addressing the theft varies based on how it occurred, such as manipulation or forgery of a will before the deceased’s passing or misappropriation of assets by the executor post-death. 

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