The Top 5 Causes of Estate Litigation

Whenever a loved one dies, the family is tasked with the difficult process of sorting out their estate. One thing that people might not think about until it’s too late is what happens when there is a dispute over the estate. Problems associated with someone’s estate plans are sensitive and often leave you (and your family) in an emotionally-charged situation that can be difficult to figure out.

There are many causes for estate litigation, and unfortunately, once litigation has begun, it means all talks and negotiations have come to an end. The most obvious reason for litigation is when the deceased dies without any type of plan in place. So, if you are dealing with an estate plan problem, it’s important to get the help that you need to get the problems solved.

At Hulbert & Associates, we are experienced in all problems associated with estate litigation and are here to help you and your family through the process. In the meantime, we’re here to discuss some of the main causes of estate litigation.

1. Second (or subsequent) marriages

Any changes in the family structure, like a divorce or a second marriage, will impact the estate plan. It’s common for second (or subsequent) marriages to cause friction, particularly with members of the family from the first marriage. Sometimes the deceased might fail to update their estate to include their new family, or update it and exclude their first family entirely. Either way, friction is bound to result from such a situation so it’s a good idea to look out for and address any major changes to your family structure.

2. Undue influence and coercion

When creating an estate plan, it’s essential that every document is executed of the person’s own free will. Any evidence of undue influence or coercion from an outside party will likely cause debate over the person’s estate and call the validity of the plan to question. A common example of a relationship that results in undue influence is when someone younger is taking advantage of an older person, but the situation also pertains to many other types of relationships like caretakers and even the deceased’s own children.

3. Creditor disputes

When someone dies, it isn’t just the family that is entitled to their estate. Any outstanding debts also have to be taken care of, which can lead to disputes between a number of creditors laying claim to the estate.

4. Formality failure

Estate documents have to abide strictly by the formality laws of the state. These include things like having the correct number of witnesses present and making sure that any changes or updates to the document are done validly. Any mistakes can call the validity of the entire document into question, making this another common cause of estate litigation.

5. Outdated estate plan documents

Another common source of tension is if the deceased has an estate document in place, like a will, that is very old. This can raise questions as to whether they actually intended it to remain as their final will and testament, or if there are other reasons to disregard older documents.

There are many reasons why estate litigation arises, and this list is by no means an all-inclusive list. That’s why if you find yourself in the center of an estate dispute, it’s important to speak with an experienced Colorado estate plan and family law attorney who can advocate on your behalf. At Hulbert & Associates, we understand the complicated nature of estate plan litigation, particularly issues that are relevant to your family. If you are dealing with an estate dispute, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.

Written by Lori Hulbert

Together the attorneys of the firm have nearly 30 years of experience in the fields of estate planning, estate and trust administration, estate and trust litigation, guardianships and conservatorships and civil litigation.