Estate litigation can arise for various reasons. For example, family members and interested parties can file a lawsuit to dispute asset distribution or will execution.
Understanding common triggers for legal challenges can help you avoid or navigate these issues.
Contested wills and trusts
Disputes may arise when beneficiaries or family members question the validity of the will. They may allege undue influence, lack of capacity or improper execution. If someone challenges the will, the court will determine whether it is authentic and enforceable.
Individuals may also dispute the validity or terms of trusts. They may contest the trust’s provisions, question the trustee’s actions or challenge the trust’s creation.
An individual may contest the will if they think someone coerced or manipulated the deceased person into changing it. Estate litigation can result if evidence shows that outside influences may have affected the decedent’s decisions.
Disputes among heirs
Conflicts among heirs over the distribution of assets can lead to estate litigation. Issues may arise when family members disagree about the deceased person’s intentions. Perceived unfairness in the distribution plan can also cause conflicts.
Unresolved family disputes and other dynamics can increase the likelihood of estate litigation. Lawsuits can result from blended family conflicts, sibling rivalries and strained relationships. In survey data reported by InvestmentNews, 58% of respondents said they have experienced conflicts with family members over estate assets.
Executor or trustee misconduct
Allegations of misconduct by the executor responsible for the estate can result in litigation. Examples include breach of fiduciary duty, mismanagement of estate funds or failure to adhere to the terms of the will or trust.
Ambiguous estate documents
Unclear language in wills, trusts or other estate planning documents can give rise to disputes among beneficiaries. Family members may seek legal resolutions when the language does not clearly spell out the deceased person’s intentions.
Understanding these common reasons for estate litigation underscores the importance of careful planning to minimize the potential for disputes.