Lafayette Estate Litigation Blog

The easiest way to end an estate dispute

Two siblings both say that they should get the same asset when their parents die. The parents do not have a will or did not specify what should be done with that asset in the will.

For instance, perhaps the will mentions their bank accounts, investments, retirement plans and other financial assets, but it does not mention what should be done with the family home. Both siblings want to keep it. They cannot determine what to do with it, and you can't just split up a physical asset. What now?

Why do adult children sue their stepmothers in estate disputes?

Most stepmothers and stepchildren often don't get along, especially the older the child is when the new mom comes into the picture. It shouldn't come as a surprise that as much as 50 percent of estate battles are brought by adult kids against their dad's most recent wife.

The number of estate lawsuits filed by adult children against their stepmothers is significantly higher than those that are filed against stepfathers.

Elderly financial abuse takes on many forms

According to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), financial exploitation is the fastest growing type of abuse among disabled adults and elderly individuals.

Their research shows that these individuals are most vulnerable to being financially exploited by people that they trust including bank workers, attorneys, neighbors, pastors, caretakers, friends, doctors and family members.

Is an estate executor refusing to give you information?

Though you were close to your recently-deceased loved one, you may not have felt the desire to handle the final affairs of his or her estate. As a result, when asked about taking on the role of executor, you declined. However, that decision did not completely sever your connection to the remaining estate because your loved one bequeathed assets to you in his or her will.

Now, before you can obtain any inheritance, you must wait until the executor of the estate reaches the asset distribution portion of the probate process. Because you know probate can take a substantial time to complete, you may have utilized your patience and understanding and allowed the executor some breathing room in order to handle the likely-stressful proceedings. However, you may now have other reasons to feel concerned.

The two main sources of undue influence

Undue influence occurs when someone tries to manipulate an elderly person for financial gain. It often focuses on their estate. For instance, someone could emotionally manipulate an elderly person and convince that person to leave them the lion's share of the estate in their will, cutting out other heirs. Such people often target elderly individuals who are suffering from dementia and other issues that make it hard for them to grasp what is going on.

There are two main sources of cases involving undue influence: 51 percent of cases involve complete strangers, while 49 percent of cases involve caregivers, friends or family members.

Stepmothers and stepchildren keep estate litigation lawyers busy

If you ask most estate planning attorneys about the parties that are most apt to get involved in contested will disputes, they'll likely tell you that they see more than their fair share of ones between stepchildren and their stepmothers.

Research that has been done regarding stepparents shows that stepmothers often live far longer than stepfathers. This complicates things when it comes to settling an estate, especially since studies have shown that only 20 percent of stepchildren who are adults claim to have a close relationship with their stepmoms. Most of those relationships don't improve with time.

What are the common reasons executors get sued?

When a testator, or the person who is drafting a will, goes to select the executor of their estate, they're often advised to pick someone who is both loyal and trustworthy. They're told to do this to make sure that their final wishes have the best chance of being honored and also because there's often significant wealth that they are entrusted to handle. Executors who have poorly handled their responsibilities have been sued.

Although a Lafayette testator can appoint a licensed California professional such as an attorney, financial planner or accountant to the role of executor, few do. Instead, they have a trusted friend or relative handle those responsibilities. The individual that they appoint to this role often hasn't been trained as to what they're supposed to do. They often make mistakes in distributing assets or reporting information to the probate court.

What you need to know before mounting a will contest

It can be quite jarring to learn upon a relative's passing that you did not get an expected inheritance. You may be especially upset that your relative never explained their decision to disinherit you.

When faced with such scenarios, some people consider mounting a will challenge. There are instances where that action is appropriate, but those are rarer than one might realize.

Completing probate often results in an executor's fee

When a loved one asked you to act as executor of his or her will, you may have accepted the role without fully understanding the extent of the responsibility that you would hold. Now that your loved one has passed away, you have gained more information on the tasks ahead of you. Understandably, you may feel a bit overwhelmed.

Because seeing an estate through probate and handling the necessary steps associated with settling final affairs is immensely trying, the executor often receives some sort of compensation for his or her services. That compensation, which is also known as an executor's fee, differs depending on the circumstances and state laws.

California laws that protect the elderly from undue influence

Over the past few years, there has been an uptick in the number of individuals attempting to befriend elderly persons in order to extort money from them. This has led California lawmakers to draft a number of bills aimed at protecting this vulnerable population, and more specifically, those who have a conservator who manages their finances. At least four of those have since been signed into law.

The most recent of those of those was Senate Bill 1191, which was originally proposed by two California Democrats and signed into law in 2018. It called for law enforcement manuals statewide to be updated to reflect that isolation is a type of abuse and any ill-treatment toward elderly individuals is a prosecutable crime.

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Pedder, Hesseltine, Walker & Toth, LLP | Est. 1995

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