Since 67% of Americans have no estate plan, inheritance litigation is common among families of deceased individuals. In many cases, people will also contest a will or estate plans on other grounds like fairness and intention. This article will discuss inheritance disputes, litigation related to estates, and determine why it happens. Read on to learn how inheritance law works and how to get the assets you’re due.
Defining Inheritance Litigation
An Inheritance dispute happens when an heir or beneficiary takes legal action against someone standing in the way of obtaining their inheritance. The defendant may be a third party set to inherit instead of the plaintiff. It may also be an executor or administrator of an estate.
Inheritance litigation is also called probate litigation.
After the death of a loved one, it’s challenging to determine what inheritance each person is entitled to. This is especially true if there was no proper estate plan in place.
However, wills are also contestable, even if the will outlines what each person should receive. Heirs may contest a will to challenge the validity of a deceased individual’s will on the grounds of a lack of testamentary formalities. They also may do so if the decedent was subject to undue influence or lacked the capacity to make informed decisions.
The bottom line is that there are many possible reasons for inheritance litigation.
Why Does Inheritance Litigation Happen?
Probate and asset distribution take place at emotionally-charged times. Everyone involved is grieving the loss of a loved one. As a result, distributing money and property is stressful and challenging.
In many cases, inheritance litigation occurs between family members who haven’t interacted in years. They often also don’t have great relationships with each other.
This discord makes the entire process more difficult.
If someone dies without a will, it’s easy to anticipate inheritance litigation. However, the process is also typical for those with unnatural estate plans.
For example, estate plans that treat siblings unequally often are contested. If the deceased left their estate to someone outside the family while shirking blood relatives, this is also a likely cause for inheritance litigation. Relatives and family members can expect to be beneficiaries.
In some situations, inheritance litigation happens between families that simply don’t get along well. For example, descendants may argue that one favored beneficiary was left too many assets while others were left very little. In most cases, a descendant can explain why the will looks as it does, but others in the family will disagree with this explanation.
Commonly, this comes in the form of siblings arguing that a favored party has received more real estate or financial assets than the other, less-favored sibling. Children of different marriages may also fight. Children from a first marriage also may clash with a second spouse over who should get more assets.
Who Has a Valid Case?
You likely have a valid inheritance dispute case if you have standing to pursue litigation options. This standing comes when the litigation outcome will personally impact you. You must be the one who will receive assets if you win.
Generally, those with valid inheritance disputes are relatives of the decedent. They are most commonly children, spouses, and disabled dependents.
However, it would be best to consider whether there is an explanation for being left out of the will, whether you’re a blood relative or not. This is not to say you do not have grounds for will contest.
Leaving you out of the will would make sense if you had no contact with the decedent for a few years. The same applies to those with bad relationships with their lost relative. If you’re well off while others in the family are impoverished, courts may also view this as a reason to leave you off the will.
You must talk with an inheritance lawyer to know whether litigation is an option for your dispute. Top-notch legal professionals will help you with probate procedures with assertive representation and the compassion needed to deal with complicated family politics.
How to Open a Probate Litigation Case
If you feel you aren’t getting the assets you’re owed, you can open an inheritance litigation case with your lawyer. Your attorney will initially explain the law and ask questions about your situation.
At that point, they will begin negotiating with the attorneys of your family members. This process usually involves talking with the will’s executor or the third party distributing the assets.
Your lawyer will aim to get you a fair cut of the assets. This may include real estate, financial assets like bank accounts, investments like stocks and bonds, intellectual property, automobiles, expensive jewelry, digital currency, and more.
Throughout the negotiation process, your lawyer will keep you informed of proceedings. They will also help you communicate with difficult family members in probate court.
Note that litigation usually takes about six to twelve months for simple estates. So there is no short route to getting the assets you’re due. However, if you stand to gain money, valuable assets, or personal property with sentimental value, it’s worth it.
Begin the Legal Litigation Process
Inheritance law is multifaceted, but an attorney can help ensure you receive your due assets. In addition, to evaluate if you have grounds for litigation, talking with a lawyer can help you determine the next steps.
Boyer Law Firm is committed to helping you determine what assets you’re entitled to. We can also will help you contest a will, communicate with difficult family members, and understand your rights. Contact us to schedule a consultation ASAP.