Will Contests and Estate Litigation: 6 Causes of Action

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The last thing you want to happen when you pass away is for your children, and loved ones to be involved in a will contest over your estate. When money is involved, crazy things happen.

Litigation should be avoided at all costs. It usually becomes a defining moment in a family’s life, dividing families for years to come. Litigation costs have been known to wipe out whole estates, leaving no one with anything but the estate litigation attorney, of course.

The terms of a trust are generally more difficult to contest than the terms of a will because a trust is not part of the public record in the same manner that a will is. The following are the most frequent six causes of action in both will competitions and estate litigation.

Let’s read the article before you look for “estate litigation attorney in New Jersey”.

#1 LACK OF CAPACITY

According to the legislation, a testator must be mentally competent to make a Last Will and Testament or trust. He/she must understand the nature of his or her estate assets and the persons to whom the estate assets will be distributed.

If incapacity is proved, a will or trust may be declared void. In other cases, incompetence is determined by a previous medical diagnosis of dementia, senility, Alzheimer’s disease, or psychosis.

#2 UNDUE INFLUENCE

Undue influence occurs when a relative, friend, trusted counsellor, or health care worker forces or coerces the testator to execute a will or trust.

In such instances, an undue “influencer” would derail a long-standing estate plan in which the decedent’s descendants or close relatives were to inherit most of the estate. In some situations, one of the decedent’s children would compel the parent to remove the other children from the will or trust, resulting in a will contest.

#3 LACK OF FORMALITIES

In most states, a Last Will and Testament or trust must be signed by the testator. Also, it must be witnessed and signed by two unrelated parties to be valid. It is possible to contest a Last Will and Testament if it was not correctly drafted, signed, or witnessed following the law.

#4 BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY

A personal representative of an estate or a trustee of a trust owes certain fiduciary obligations of honesty, prudence, and allegiance to the estate or trust beneficiaries. When a trustee or personal representative fails to fulfill those obligations, a cause of action occurs.

#5 ELECTIVE SHARE 

Surviving spouses in some states are entitled to an elective share, which entitles them to a percentage of the deceased spouse’s estate based on a statutory formula. Deadlines may be connected to make the elective share.

#6 FORGED DOCUMENTS

If someone suspects that an estate planning document, such as a will or a trust, is forged or that signatures are forged, the plan will certainly be challenged in court.

The best way to prevent lawsuits is to go through a thorough estate and financial planning program, which includes making your wishes crystal clear and placing the legal tools needed to implement them.