After the death of a loved one, it can be a difficult and contentious process to decide how to distribute his or her property.
When there is a lot of money involved or tensions among family and friends are already high, estate litigation is a real possibility.
As a word of warning, executing a trust or using another device to avoid probate is no guarantee that an aggrieved person will not file a lawsuit.
There are many reasons why someone may use estate litigation to try to get what they want.
Disinherited people may use a will or trust contest
For instance, someone who has been cut out of a will or a trust altogether may try to argue that the will or trust is invalid. Reasons someone might use would include argument like fraud, duress, or undue influence.
The person may argue that the person who created the will or trust was not legally competent to do so or did not execute the document properly.
A number of people may file a claim against the estate
When a will goes through probate, any individual, business, or government agency which believes the person who died owed money may file a claim against the estate.
If the personal representative of the estate believes that the claim should not be paid, then the person making the claim and the estate will have to resolve it through litigation.
Likewise, an estate may have to sue another person who owes the estate money.
Financial mismanagement can lead to litigation
Personal representatives have the responsibility to gather all the property of the estate, pay off valid debts and then distribute the rest of the property to the lawful beneficiaries. In the meantime, they have to protect and preserve, and in some cases invest, the estate’s property.
If they fail in this duty, and especially if they self-deal or dip into the estate’s funds for personal use, then the beneficiaries may sue to recover lost funds and remove the personal representative.