Common Causes of Estate Litigation

Common Causes of Estate Litigation

Few people relish the idea of their heirs fighting over their will. Creating an estate plan enables you to preserve and distribute your wealth as you see fit. Unfortunately, when money and assets are at stake, disputes can happen.

Working with a seasoned estate planning attorney at Dworken & Bernstein is the best way to avoid these common causes of estate litigation:

  • Multiple wills: It’s common to create multiple wills throughout your lifetime. Divorce, remarriage, adding children to the family, estrangement and changing assets are all occasions to update your estate plan. If a newer will surfaces after another has been presented to the court, it may require litigation.
  • Undue influence: When a testator is coerced to change their will to benefit another, this is considered undue influence. In some cases, the testator might be strong-armed into disrupting their long-held estate plan to add a new beneficiary, like their healthcare attendants. An adult child might convince their parents to give them a larger share than their siblings, or disinherit the others entirely. This may cause potential beneficiaries to contest the will.
  • Lack of capacity: A testator must have the capacity to understand the nature of their assets and to whom they are distributing property. If they were suffering from dementia, senility, Alzheimer’s or other cognitive impairment, their will can be contested due to lack of capacity.
  • Lack of formalities: Ohio state law requires wills to be in writing (either handwritten or typewritten), and “signed at the end by the testator or by some other person in the testator’s conscious presence and at the testator’s express direction.” It also requires two witnesses to the will. If these elements are missing, the will may be declared invalid.
  • Breach of fiduciary duty: Executor and trustees owe beneficiaries a fiduciary duty. If those duties are breached, the beneficiaries should have a cause of action.
  • Beneficiary disputes: Finally, beneficiary disputes may give rise to estate litigation. This may include a missing heir, interpretation of specific language or issues with how property is divided. The validity of beneficiary dispute causes of action vary, depending on the individual circumstances of the case.

Many estate disputes can be avoided when you create a comprehensive estate plan with our experienced attorneys. We can help you create a plan that will help you prepare for long-term healthcare needs, bypass probate and distribute your property according to your wishes. Call Dworken & Bernstein today to learn more.

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