Complex Estate and Guardianship Litigation in New Jersey and Pennsylvania
Estate administration can be extremely complicated. Even with a will or trust in place, it can be difficult to know what a person’s intentions were for their estate, especially if they are no longer able to articulate it themselves. The administration of an estate often leads to disputes, which may need to be settled in court. While it is often in both parties’ best interests to reach an amicable agreement through negotiation, sometimes this is not possible. The experienced litigation lawyers at the Harty Law Group have the knowledge and resources to handle all types of complex estate litigation cases.
Challenging a Will
A person’s will specifies how their assets are to be distributed after they pass away. An interested party can include anyone who would have received a portion of the estate had there been no will in place, or anyone who was named as a beneficiary in a previous version of the will. Wills are legally binding, but a potential heir, such as a relative, friend, or caretaker, can challenge the validity of the will on various grounds, including:
- Testamentary capacity: The testator was not in a fit mental state when the will was written
- Undue influence: A third party manipulated or overpowered the testator to write the will according to their interests, and not the testator’s
Depending on the size of the estate and their allotted portion, it may be in a potential heir’s interest to challenge the validity of a will. Whether or not their challenge will be upheld depends on several factors, where either a portion of the will or the entire document may be invalidated.
Disputes Over a Trust
A trust is another valuable tool for people looking to protect their assets and distribute them in a specific way. When a grantor establishes the trust, they name beneficiaries and designate a trustee to manage the trust. The trustee has more control over the funds than an executor of a will; they make decisions regarding who receives funds and when, as well as how to invest funds in the trust.
Granting fiduciary responsibility to a trusted person or a financial institution is intended to ensure that funds are handled competently, but it often results in conflict between the trustee and the beneficiaries. Beneficiaries may bring forth a dispute if they feel the trust is being mismanaged in some way, including:
- Trustee spending or paying out trust funds to themselves
- Misappropriation of funds
- Fraud or malpractice
- Lack of communication regarding management of the funds
When an incapacitated adult or elderly person is no longer able to care for themselves properly, the court may appoint a guardian for them. The guardian is responsible for ensuring the well-being of their ward, as well as managing their estate on their behalf. The court will try to do what is best for the ward, but these matters can be extremely complicated, and there are numerous reasons why a guardianship might be contested.
A guardian assumes responsibility for many aspects of their ward’s life, including:
- Caring for their physical and mental health
- Managing their finances, including planning for future needs
- Ensuring appropriate living arrangements
- Maintaining their personal property
- Keeping track of important documents
- Liaising with the court to inform them of changes in the ward’s address or condition
This arrangement gives the guardian a high level of control over the ward’s affairs, and disputes can occur if other people close to the ward see an issue. Common guardianship disputes include:
- Neglect or failure to properly care for the ward
- Physical or mental abuse
- Theft of money or property
- Altering documents, such as a deed, will, or trust against the ward’s interest
- Guardianship no longer needed
- Petition to replace the current guardian
Philadelphia Litigation Lawyers at the Harty Law Group Represent Clients in Complex Estate Cases
At the Harty Law Group, our Philadelphia litigation lawyers understand that every family is different. We will thoroughly review the facts of your case and tailor a legal strategy to protect your interests. We combine years of experience with the latest technology to get our clients the best possible outcome in all types of estate or guardianship disputes. Located in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we represent clients throughout Pennsylvania and South Jersey. Call us today at 267-262-5650 or contact us online to discuss your case.