A death in the family causes grief to the survivors. Unfortunately, it often also causes disputes between the deceased person’s loved ones. If someone believes a will is unfair or disputes its validity, they could bring a lawsuit. A West Miami estate litigation lawyer is skilled at challenging and defending wills and handling other issues that arise in settling someone’s estate.
If disputes arise regarding a deceased loved one’s property, contact a seasoned probate attorney immediately. They will explain the law and help you choose the best way to meet your goals.
Litigation Challenges to a Will or Trust
People make a will to pass property on to their heirs. The people who receive money or property through the will are the beneficiaries and the will should also name a personal representative to carry out the instructions.
Beneficiaries can challenge a will if they believe it does not provide them what they are entitled to receive or what the deceased person (decedent) wanted them to have. A person who receives nothing, but who expected to be included, could also challenge a will. The personal representative defends against these challenges and may do so with help from a West Miami estate litigation attorney.
Setting aside a will is not easy but the law sometimes allows it. The person seeking to set aside the will must prove that there is grounds to invalidate it, which the law provides a few options for.
Duress and Fraud
Duress means pressuring the person creating the will to make certain decisions or change decisions they have already made. Usually, there are threatened consequences if the person does not give in to the pressure. Similarly, if the person who created the will was the victim of fraud, the will could be invalid.
The law requires that a creator must sign a will in front of two witnesses, who also must sign it in front of each other. If a will did not meet these rules, a probate Judge could invalidate it.
The person making the will must know what their assets are and be able to identify the people most likely to benefit from their assets after they die. They also should understand the results of the will’s terms. If the person making the will lacks one or more of these capacities, it might be invalid.
Although people strive to be careful when they write their testamentary documents, sometimes a mistake happens and no one catches it until it is too late. If the maker or the legal professional who drafted the document made a mistake, a court might invalidate or modify it.
If someone persuaded the will’s maker to make different decisions than they would usually make and that person benefitted from the decision, then undue influence could be the cause. These cases often arise when someone new enters a person’s life and a will favors the new person over the family members or other longer-standing connections.
Other Forms of Estate Litigation in West Miami
Sometimes people do not question the validity of a will but have issues with other aspects of the probate process, such as the conduct of the personal representative.
A will usually names a personal representative and the court will appoint that person unless they are legally ineligible to assume the position. Florida Statutes § 733.504 allows a probate court to remove a representative for many reasons, including the following:
- Lack of physical or mental capacity, as might occur if they develop an illness or suffer injuries in an accident while the estate is in probate;
- Mismanagement of the estate;
- Conflict of interest;
- Failure to produce proper records when requested;
- Conviction of a felony;
- Personal representative’s insolvency or bankruptcy.
A West Miami attorney can advise in estate litigation whether a specific situation justifies the personal representative’s removal.
When an estate is ready to close, the representative submits an accounting to the court. The accounting describes the estate’s debts and assets, and how the personal representative paid the debts and distributed the remaining property. If a beneficiary believes there was incorrect accounting, they could challenge it in probate court.
Ask a West Miami Estate Litigation Attorney for Help Today
Disputes over money is the last thing anyone wants when grieving a loved one’s death. Unfortunately, this can happen often.
Contact a West Miami estate litigation lawyer if there are arguments among the heirs about your loved one’s will or how the personal representative is handling the estate. The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm provides free consultations.