Estate disputes occur fairly frequently. Most never make it to litigation, but they can cause rifts between family members and friends. It can be challenging to find common ground when emotions are running high. Occasionally, these disagreements do grow into a more significant problem, and litigation may occur.
At Bratton Estate & Elder Care Attorneys, our attorneys have the training to help them resolve this type of dispute and help you avoid court. We may be able to mitigate the financial and emotional damage done by a disagreement, helping everyone walk away happy and with your relationships with loved ones intact. If necessary, however, we can also aggressively defend your deceased loved one’s final wishes during litigation.
Common Causes of Voorhees, New Jersey Estate Disputes
Almost any difference of opinion can lay the foundation for an estate dispute, but they are far more common in cases when there is no will, or there is a question about whether the will is valid. Some of the situations most likely to lead to a serious estate dispute include:
There Is No Will
If your loved one left no will or other estate planning documents, settling the estate quickly becomes one person’s word against the other. This can turn the entire process adversarial if potential heirs disagree about their loved one’s intentions. In the vast majority of estate disputes that escalate to litigation, there is no will, or there are questions about the will’s validity.
The Will Is Not Valid
We always recommend you create your will and other estate planning documents in conjunction with an estate planning attorney. This ensures the will’s validity when it comes time to enter it into probate.
In general, a valid modern will has the signatures of the deceased, two witnesses, and a notary. These are “self-proving” wills, meaning the Surrogate who examines it during the probate process only needs to see the signature and notary stamp to validate the will.
Lack of Capacity Claims
Sometimes family and friends will claim the deceased lacked the capacity to know what they were doing when they signed an otherwise valid will. This is often a concern if the deceased had dementia or another medical issue or took medication that clouded their judgment. If we can prove a lack of capacity claim, the court may invalidate the will. We can also help defend your loved one’s estate against a false lack of capacity claim.
Undue Influence Claims
When potential heirs claim undue influence, they are claiming that someone else coerced or convinced the deceased to change their will. This usually occurs when a relatively recent update to the will leaves all or most of the inheritance to one heir or a particular group of heirs while removing others.
For example, if your loved one left their assets to only one of their three children, the other siblings may question if this is what their parent intended. Undue influence claims sometimes go hand-in-hand with lack of capacity claims.
Challenges Against the Estate Administrator
Challenging the estate administrator is another common reason for litigation. The administrator of an estate or executor of a will has access to all the assets during this process, so there is great responsibility on their shoulders. If they do not demonstrate competency and ethics when handling the estate, challenging their abilities is often the right thing to do.
Of course, with emotions running hot, this situation can also breed false claims against responsible administrators. We can handle this type of challenge, no matter if you need help protecting your reputation or ensuring the administrator properly manages your loved one’s estate.
Services Available from Our Voorhees, NJ Estate Litigation Lawyers
At Bratton Estate & Elder Care Attorneys, our estate litigation team takes an interdisciplinary approach to your case. With estate law attorneys, social workers, and a registered nurse on our team, we can offer both compassionate support and aggressive legal action depending on your needs. Often, we can mediate disagreements and keep them from turning into an ugly court battle.
If you are facing a New Jersey estate dispute, we can:
- Help you understand the possible outcomes
- Protect your loved one’s legacy
- Use proven dispute resolution tactics to try to avoid litigation
- Protect your reputation and best interests
- Protect the assets in your loved one’s estate from unscrupulous acts
- Fight for the assets your loved one designated for you
- Represent you in court if estate litigation becomes a reality
In some cases, we may be able to help you prevent a dispute in the first place. If you are acting as an estate administrator or will executor for your loved one’s estate, you do not have to try to manage this on your own. We can handle the estate administration process on your behalf, reducing the risk of disagreement or disputes.
From helping you understand your duties to walking you through the probate and administration process, our team is here to provide the help you need.
Talk to an Estate Litigation Lawyer in Voorhees, NJ
At Bratton Estate & Elder Care Attorneys, our estate litigation attorneys can use effective dispute resolution strategies to try to reach common ground between potential heirs. If mediation does not work, we can aggressively fight for your best interests during litigation.
Call our Voorhees, NJ estate litigation team today at 856-857-6007.