Helping Clients Navigate Estate and Probate Litigation
Dealing with the death of a loved one is always a challenging situation. There are a lot of emotions involved, and everyone experiences grief differently. When people are upset and grieving, it’s easy for other disputes to arise and escalate. When those disputes involve the estate itself, it can make things even more complicated. Understanding what happens with estate and probate litigation and how attorneys help clients navigate these issues can help you make more informed decisions moving forward.
When you’re dealing with complicated matters like estate litigation, you need the help of an experienced law firm. Contact MMZ Law to speak to a probate litigation or trust litigation lawyer about your case. We’re here to help you understand your rights and options under California law and to advocate for you.
What Is Estate Litigation?
Estate litigation is a category of legal practice that involves disputes regarding estates. An estate or trust litigation attorney represents the parties in the dispute, depending on what the issue is. Anything that involves estate planning documents can result in estate litigation. These disputes often arise when someone who thought they were going to inherit assets doesn’t or when there are surprises in the will, such as leaving assets to charity instead of family members.
Estate litigation can be an extremely emotional and stressful process, especially when people are already grieving. Working with an estate litigation attorney can help you handle these challenges with the benefit of an objective third party.
What Do Probate Litigation Attorneys Do?
Probate litigation attorneys represent clients in estate planning matters, such as contested wills or issues related to estate administration. Probate litigation attorneys review estate planning documents to determine whether there may be legal issues surrounding the legitimacy or proper execution of the estate.
If you believe that an estate has been improperly handled or that there is concern that a will is fraudulent, a probate and trust litigation attorney can help.
What Are Some Common Issues That Arise in Estate Litigation?
While each legal issue has its own specific set of circumstances, estate disputes tend to focus on the same core issues. These often include:
- Contested wills
- Allegations regarding breach of fiduciary duty
- The interpretation of estate planning documents
- Disinherited spouses or children
- Guardianship disputes
These disputes are usually dealt with in probate court, but it is possible for other courts to be involved. For example, disputes regarding who should be appointed guardian of a minor child may take place in family court.
How Difficult Is It to Remove Someone as Executor?
Having the named executor of the estate removed isn’t easy, but it can be done. In general, you will need to prove that the executor didn’t fulfill their fiduciary duty or abused their power. To get this process started, someone who qualifies as an interested party must file a petition in probate court. An interested party is someone who has a vested interest in the estate dispute, such as a beneficiary.
Once the petition for removal has been filed with the probate court, there is a period of time when it’s possible for the parties to reach a settlement instead of moving forward with a probate litigation hearing. If a settlement can’t be reached, a hearing date is scheduled.
At the hearing, the party who filed the petition to remove the executor will be able to present evidence as to how the executor acted in an unethical or negligent manner. The executor will also be able to present evidence to support their case. If the judge believes there is enough evidence for removal, they will issue the order, and a new executor will need to be appointed. If a successor executor was named in the will, this person may be appointed.
It’s also possible that there may be reason to remove a trustee as well. This process is very similar, but it’s a good idea to talk to a trust litigation attorney about your options and what to expect.
What Questions Should I Ask a Probate Litigation Attorney?
When you’re hiring an attorney to handle issues like trust and estate litigation, it’s important to meet with them to have an initial consultation where they can learn about your case. The attorney will want to know what your relationship is to the deceased, what kind of estate planning documents are involved, and what has happened that has led you to consider litigation. This is also your opportunity to ask questions about the law firm and what experience they have handling similar legal claims. Here are some questions you may want to consider asking an estate or trust litigation attorney:
- What is your background in estate litigation?
- Have you worked on similar cases, and if so, what was the outcome?
- What percentage of cases have you been able to settle out of court?
- How do you handle estate litigation cases?
- What are my legal options?
- What happens if I win (or lose) my case?
- What is your fee structure?
An attorney should be able to provide clear answers to all of these questions and be able to articulate what the next steps will be if you choose to hire them. They should also be able to explain the pros and cons of all your legal options.
Whether you believe your loved one’s will was created under undue influence or you believe that an executor has failed in their duties, the law firm of MMZ Law can help. Call our Claremont office at 909-347-7444 to schedule a consultation and find out more about your options and our services.