If you have recently lost a loved one, it should be a time where the whole family comes together to mourn and support one another. The last thing you want is to be the cause of a lawsuit that piles contention onto an already painful situation. Like it or not, however, there are times when estate litigation is necessary in order to validate your rights or protect another family member from abuse. Here are just a few of the situations in which estate litigation is likely necessary.
When there are signs of undue influence
Consider this scenario. Your father always talked about distributing his estate equally among you and all of your siblings. Towards the end of his life, your sister started spending a lot of time with him, caring for him and maybe taking care of his finances for him. When he passed away, you learned that he had modified his will to leave an inordinate share of his estate to your sister, effectively cutting you out. There were no previous signs of a falling-out between you and your father.
In a case like this, you may be in a position to bring a lawsuit to challenge the authenticity of the will modification. You would allege undue influence, meaning that your sister placed inappropriate pressure on your father to modify his will by taking advantage of his advanced age or poor health.
Challenging the actions of the executor
The executor of your loved one’s estate has a fiduciary duty to you and to all of the other beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate. This means that they have the duty to act with loyalty and diligence in managing the estate for your benefit. They cannot do anything that benefits themselves or someone else at the expense of the beneficiaries.
If you see the executor do something that seems completely out of line with the deceased’s wishes, and is infringing upon your rights (or the rights of the other beneficiaries), you may stand an excellent change of being able to successfully challenge them in court. You would do this by bringing a lawsuit alleging a breach of fiduciary duty. If you win, you could force them to do their job correctly, or possibly even get the court to name a new executor in their place.
No one relishes the idea of going to court over the estate of their loved one. But if it is necessary, it could lead to a vindication of your rights and your deceased loved one’s desires being fulfilled.