When a person passes away, there are multiple tasks that must be completed for wrapping up their final affairs. The legal term for this process is estate administration, and it incorporates managing assets, addressing liabilities, distributing items to heirs or beneficiaries, and other matters that arise after death. Regardless of whether the decedent had a will, it is common for disputes to develop between and among the numerous parties who have an interest in estate administration.
Disputes may even boil over into litigation, so it is possible that the estate will need to pursue legal action – or defend against the claims of others. No matter where you stand with respect to a conflict, you will need an estate administration lawyer to assist with the following types of litigation.
Survivors may dispute the validity of the will based upon the circumstances surrounding execution. Every US state has legal requirements related to:
- The testator’s date and signature;
- Witnesses who observe the execution of the will in the presence of the testator and each other; and,
- Notarization of signatures.
Discrepancies in any of these areas could give rise to a will contest, which would invalidate the document or certain provisions if successful. Plus, some individuals may claim fraud, duress, coercion or other misconduct to support a will contest.
Appointment of Personal Representative
Interested parties may pursue estate litigation over who is appointed to handle administration. Even when an executor is named in the will, that person must qualify under local laws. In an intestate estate, there are statutes designating who is entitled to act for the estate according to their relationship to the decedent. In some cases, there could be competing petitions by different individuals seeking to be appointed as personal representative.
Disputes Over Creditor Claims
The estate is responsible for paying debts of the deceased, but creditors must be able to prove their claim to receive payment. This type of estate litigation pertains to a business relationship, so there is less emotional conflict as compared to other suits. Still, contested creditor claims carry many of the same elements of a lawsuit for a collection action or breach of contract.
Allegations of Fiduciary Misconduct
Once appointed, the personal representative of the estate stands in the position of a fiduciary. This individual takes on responsibilities related to loyalty and good faith, and to act in the best interests of beneficiaries. Not all interested parties may approve of the personal representative’s actions and decision-making. Allegations of breach of fiduciary duty often deal with the inventory, accounting, and management of assets.
Trust an Experienced Probate and Estate Administration Attorney to Handle Disputes
As you can see, it is critical to retain experienced representation for estate litigation, whether you are in the position of personal representative, heir, beneficiary, or other interested party. The team at Francois Williams Legal LLC will prioritize your needs, so please contact us to schedule a consultation. Once we assess your circumstances, we can advise you on what to expect with litigation in estate administration.