When a person drafts a will or trust, they do so assuming that they are creating an iron-clad legal document that can be clearly followed by loved ones after their passing. Of course, this is not always the case and estate disputes can arise when loved ones feel as though the validity of the documents are questionable.
Westlake Village estate lawyers have a wealth of experience handling estate litigation cases, responding to the variety of conflicts that may impact the validity of the deceased estate plans as per California law. Here, Catanese & Wells explores a few of the most common reasons why Westlake Village estate lawyers are consulted for estate litigation cases.
Undue Influence or Coercion
Estate plans must be created under a person’s own free will, and evidence of undue influence or coercion is a common cause of debate over estates and subsequent litigation. There are a wide variety of examples that a Westlake village estate lawyer may be consulted regarding possible undue influence or coercion. Usually, these arguments are made against a younger party taking advantage of an older person to access their estate and can include relationships such as the deceased children or even their caretakers or a trusted advisor.
Lack of Capacity
It is the law that testators must have the mental competency required to not only make a Last Will and Testament but also to understand their assets and how they will be distributed after their passing. If there is any question of the testator’s mental capacity during the creation of their will or during modifications, estate litigation is an avenue that people may take to have it declared void. While prior diagnosis of conditions such as senility, psychosis, dementia, and Alzheimer’s are commonly used as a basis for lack of testamentary capacity, it is important to know that they do not automatically invalidate a will. Whether or not a will can be changed will depend greatly upon the specifics of your case.
If estate documents that are old can be a source of tension that may lead to estate litigation. This is because they can possibly raise questions as to whether or not they were intended to be an individual’s Last Will and Testament- especially if certain life changes are not reflected in its contents. There are multiple signs that a will may be outdated such as it not including new additions to the family, failure to account for marriages, divorces or deaths, or that the estate was drafted before moving to a new state. As a rule of thumb, updating your will every four or five years will help ensure that there is no potential argument for it being outdated after your passing.
When the deceased has experienced changes to the structure of their family unit such as a second marriage, there may be disputes that will result in estate litigation down the line. This is often the case when the deceased did not update their estate to include new family members or may have removed some family from their estate after remarriage. It is easy for family to feel left out if they find themselves not in the estate prior to remarriage. One of the best ways to avoid this situation is to ensure that changes are addressed long before one’s passing as it reduces the risk of disputes later on.
Potential Executor Abuse
An executor- the person who manages your estate when it is in probate- can potentially spur estate litigation if beneficiaries or heirs do not like how they are performing their duties or if their judgement is not trusted. There are many reasons why Westlake Village Estate lawyers may be called upon for litigation due to suspicion of the executor. For example, fraud, recklessness, deceitful acts, and mismanagement are all common reasons why an executor’s behavior may lead to estate litigation after a testator’s passing. If there is any reason to suspect that an executor is not properly handling their responsibilities or self-dealing, it is crucial to consult a legal professional who can assist with disputing.