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Probate Litigation Lawyers in Philadelphia, PA

Representing Clients Dealing With Will Contests and Probate Legal Matters

Losing a loved one is an emotionally painful experience for everyone involved. When disputes arise concerning a loved one’s estate or the manner in which their loved one’s will was written, things can get even more complicated. The attorneys at the Bratton Law Group explain how probate litigation works in Pennsylvania and how an attorney can help. For advice concerning your specific case, contact the Bratton Law Group at 267-323-4038.

What Is Probate Litigation in Pennsylvania?

Probate litigation refers to legal disputes and conflicts that arise during the probate process, which is the legal procedure of administering a deceased person’s estate. In Pennsylvania, probate litigation can involve a wide range of issues, including will contests, disagreements over the validity of a will, challenges to the appointment of an executor, accusations of undue influence or fraud, and disputes over how assets should be distributed.

For example, if a family member believes that the deceased person’s will was forged or that they were coerced into signing it, they may initiate a probate litigation case to challenge the validity of the will. Another example would be if there is disagreement among beneficiaries regarding the distribution of assets, leading to a dispute that requires court intervention.

What Are Common Reasons for Probate Litigation?

Probate litigation can happen for many reasons, two of the most common being disputes over the distribution of assets and challenges to the validity of a will. Probate litigation can be challenging and usually somewhat emotional, as family members have to sort out their differences while grieving the loss of their loved one.

Sometimes, probate litigation happens due to asset distribution matters. Conflicts may arise when beneficiaries have different interpretations of the deceased person’s intentions, leading to disputes over who should receive what. The situation can be made worse if there is ambiguity or lack of clarity in the will or if there are allegations of undue influence or fraud.

Likewise, one or more family members may have reasons to believe a will may be invalid. Will challenges based on the validity of the will can happen when any of the parties with an interest in the will suspect that the document was forged, the deceased person did not have the mental capacity to make a valid will, or they were coerced into signing it. Such challenges can lead to lengthy legal battles and the need for court intervention to determine the true intentions of the deceased person and obtain a fair outcome for all parties involved.

How Can You Challenge the Validity of a Will in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, a beneficiary or person with an interest in a will must have valid grounds for initiating a legal proceeding to challenge the validity of the will. Doing so simply because they are unhappy with the inheritance they received or because they have been excluded from inheriting anything (according to the decedent’s wishes) may not be considered sufficient grounds for initiating a will contest. Common valid reasons for will contests include lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, and fraud.

Lack of testamentary capacity means that the decedent did not have the mental capacity to understand the nature and consequences of making a will. This can occur if the person was suffering from a mental illness or dementia or was incapacitated due to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of preparing the will.

Another possible ground for challenging a will is undue influence. Undue influence can happen if someone exerts psychological pressure or employs manipulation tactics to persuade the deceased person into making a will that does not reflect their true intentions. This can involve situations where a caregiver, family member, or other person close to the deceased person takes advantage of their vulnerable state to influence the contents of the will for their own benefit.

A will can also be challenged if the parties involved believe the will was a result of fraud or forgery. For example, if there is evidence to suggest that the will was falsified or altered after it was signed, it could be deemed invalid. Likewise, the will may also be considered invalid if the decedent’s signature was forged or if it was not signed in the presence of witnesses. If you have reason to believe a will challenge is needed, it is always best to speak to an attorney to ensure you have valid grounds to take legal action.

Can You Sue an Executor for Breach of Fiduciary Duty?

The executor of an estate is responsible for managing the estate assets and completing the steps required to close the estate and distribute the estate assets according to the wishes of the decedent (if the decedent left a will) or as determined by the probate court. When the executor fails to act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries, they could be sued for breaching their fiduciary duty.

There are many situations that could be considered a breach of an executor’s fiduciary duty. These can include mismanagement of assets, self-dealing, improper distribution of assets, failure to account for finances, failure to communicate with beneficiaries and disclose the estate’s financial statements when required, or any other actions that go against the executor’s legal obligations.

To file a lawsuit for breach of fiduciary duty, the first step is to speak to an attorney and gather evidence of the executor’s misconduct. This can include financial records, communication records, witness statements, and any other documentation that supports your claim. If you need legal representation or believe you have reasons to initiate probate litigation proceedings, contact the attorneys at the Bratton Law Group by calling our office in Philadelphia, PA, at 267-323-4038.