The loss of a loved one affects the entire family, sometimes leaving them adrift. Not only do they mourn the loss of a parent, spouse or sibling, but it can also lead to heightened emotions that impact interactions with surviving family members. Ideally, this is an outpouring of care and support, but this is not always the case.

Without the stabilizing presence of the deceased, the family sometimes redefine their relationships. Conflicts are a natural outgrowth of this shift, but conflicts can also involve disagreements over handling the deceased’s estate or trust.

Every estate is different, but disputes we see regularly include:

  • Will contests: It may be issues involving undue influence, the mental capacity of that testator (deceased), or failure of form where the will was not properly drafted, signed and witnessed in accordance with the law. There may also be disputes because there is more than one will.
  • Trust contests: Like the above, this involves the mental facility of the grantor or technical/legal deficiencies in the trust.
  • Breach of fiduciary duty: The estate’s trustee or personal representative does not fulfill obligations outlined in the will or trust or act in their own interests instead of those of the beneficiaries.
  • Failure to account: This involves providing insufficient or forged paperwork regarding the administration of the trust, sale of assets or other real estate transactions.
  • Guardian litigation: This can involve the guardianship of minors in the event of the parents’ death. It can happen if no guardian is identified or even when the parents made their wishes known, but a family member believes that they are better suited for the job.

A fair settlement is the goal

A thoughtful will or trust created with an estate law attorney’s guidance can help reduce disputes. Nonetheless, estate litigation may be the only way to protect an individual or group’s rights. Those with questions can often get answers or discuss legal options when they consult with an experienced estate law attorney who handles estate litigation here in New York.