If you haven't yet heard of estate litigation, the chances are high that you'll run across it sooner rather than later. Estate litigation has, in fact, become quite the hot topic as of late. As the baby boomers continue to age, look for this type of litigation to become more mainstream as it tackles a very real problem that seems to be happening with wills.
What is Estate Litigation?
Estate litigation isn't a new type of litigation, it's just not one of the more common ones that people talk about. This type of litigation is meant to deal with disputes that can arise between family members and acquaintances who wish to contest a will. It may be that they are contesting the legitimacy of the will or the contents of the will.
Perhaps the person's loved one was coerced into changing their will, or didn't realize what they were actually doing, and now the other family members wish to reclaim probate rights by means of estate litigation.
A Complex Area of the Law
Just as you may expect, this type of litigation is often very complex. You are dealing with multiple parties who feel firm in their stance. Emotions also tend to run high, making for an even more intense type of situation. The first part of the process will be to convince the courts that there is a viable litigation claim. The court will consider such things as:
- Who was put in charge of looking after the will?
- Who contacted the estate litigation lawyer?
- When the contents of the trust or will were being discussed, was the beneficiary present at the time?
- When the trust or will was created/executed, was the beneficiary there?
It is up to the trust and estate litigation lawyer to show that the decedent was coerced or influenced by the beneficiary. Typically, these cases involve a lot of he said, she said, which can make it very difficult to prove anything. It's recommended that families look for, and discuss, issues during the estate planning process, while the deceased is still alive. This can obviously help to make things clearer.
Hearing More About It
Where it used to be that you wouldn't hear much about this kind of litigation, nowadays it's all over the news, and estate litigation lawyers are finding themselves even busier. Take a look at the many celebrities who have died, and then their families have proceeded to contest the will and fight it out in the public eye. Look no further than the iconic artist Prince, who died last year yet his estate is still being disputed. His estate is worth an estimated $300 million and it seems each of the heirs feels they all have a strong case on their own.
Shawn Manaher is a former financial advisor, has founded 5 online businesses, and is a coach, speaker, podcast host, and author. He's been featured on The Consults Corner on TAE Radio, The Writing Biz, What's Your Story, and more.