After a person passes away, their estate is generally distributed amongst various parties, including beneficiaries that have been named in a will or a trust, creditors, and others. Unfortunately, this process does not always go smoothly, sometimes resulting in complicated and acrimonious litigation that can tie an estate up in court for months or even years. Some of the more common types of estate litigation that occur include the following:
- Challenges to the validity of a will
- Requests for the court to interpret ambiguous terms in a will or trust
- Guardianship contests (in the event that an individual is still alive but diminished mental capacity)
- Breach of fiduciary duty
These disputes can arise in a wide variety of situations, but some risk factors for estate litigation are easy to spot: issues like sibling rivalries, disinherited children, multiple marriages, or gifts to extramarital paramours significantly increase the likelihood that someone will bring a challenge. In addition, if you engage in non-traditional estate planning techniques or attempt to exercise a significant amount of control on your beneficiaries after you are gone, it also increases the likelihood that someone will challenge your estate plan.
How can Estate Planning Help?
There are a number of ways that an attorney familiar with estate planning techniques can help reduce the likelihood that there will be litigation over your estate, including the following:
- Regularly assessing and updating your will or trust documents to reflect your wishes
- Planning for mental incapacity by establishing a financial party of attorney that takes effect if you become incapacitated
- Establishing joint ownership of assets that you wish to pass to a particular party
- Creating a living trust
- Establishing a no-contest clause to discourage litigation
- Choosing a trustworthy and competent executor or trustee
- Ensuring that your documents comply with all relevant state law
Contact a New Jersey Estate Planning Attorney Today to Learn More
Avoiding litigation over your estate is always advisable, as it can save your family significant time, money and emotional turmoil. Unfortunately, it is difficult to recognize the circumstances that may result in a dispute, so it important to speak with an attorney who is familiar with the kinds of situations that often result in litigation. To schedule a consultation with one of the attorneys at Borrus, Goldin, Foley, Vignuolo, Hyman & Stahl, P.C., call our office today at 732-422-1000 or send us an email through our online contact form.