The death of a family member is very difficult for the surviving family members. Not only is the loss painful but almost immediately thereafter the issues of estate administration arise. Sometimes the estate issues are fairly simple. Often the issues can be complex and the parties turn to the court system for resolution. Although turning to the court system for resolution of any estate matter may seem like a difficult burden to undertake following the loss of a loved one, often it can turn out to have been the best route, resulting in an expeditious, fair resolution of the issues. Unlike other areas of litigation, attorneys fees and other litigation expenses are usually paid from the estate rather than from the client.
Often the issues in an estate matter center on whether a person’s last will and testament accurately represent the wishes of the person who made the will. Although there are several bases for contesting a will, the most common is what is called undue influence. One common scenario where undue influence may come into play is where the last surviving parent of two or more siblings dies and one of the siblings served as the parent’s sole caregiver. A number of potential problems come into focus including the time, costs and efforts incurred by that caregiver. Sometimes in that situation, the parent changed her will to account for those care services and the non-caregiver siblings may believe the changes were done at the behest of the caregiver. These situations are more common than one might expect.
Other estate issues may arise due to poor drafting of the will itself. For example, a provision might be ambiguous such that it can be reasonably interpreted in two or more different ways each of which results in a significantly different outcome.
Other issues may involve the actual administration of an estate. It is not uncommon for one beneficiary to serve as executor or administrator of the estate while the other beneficiaries look on. Whether the client is the one administering the estate or standing by as another administers the estate, full disclosure and fairness must prevail.
With his substantial experience in this practice area, Mr. Crane can advise you as to your rights and prospects of resolving these types of matters and he can represent you in the process of contesting or defending a will or the administration of the estate.