Estate Litigation Attorney in Union City, New Jersey
When a person dies with a last will and testament in place, the administration of the estate – that is, distributing assets to named beneficiaries – begins with probate proceedings in a surrogate court. The personal representative named in the will then becomes the executor of the estate, with obligations dictated by probate law.
In the administration of the will, it is not uncommon for disputes and challenges to arise in probate court that can not only lengthen the process – which can take months even when there’s smooth sailing – but also run up costs and end up with family spats that can linger for a long, long time.
Although living trusts are administered outside of probate court, if an heir or presumed beneficiary wants to challenge the terms of the trust, he or she can file suit in the probate court, in which case the court will examine the trust, weigh the basis of the challenge, and make a decision.
In either scenario – will or trust challenges – all parties are going to need experienced and knowledgeable legal representation.
If you are involved in a will or trust dispute in or around Union City, New Jersey, contact Hudson Law Firm. We are thoroughly familiar with all aspects of estate planning and probate proceedings and can help you resolve any issues that arise in estate administration during probate or in trust administration. Our firm also proudly serves clients throughout Jersey City, Bayonne, Hoboken, and North Bergen, New Jersey.
The Estate Administration Process
The steps in administering an estate are the same whether it’s a will going through probate court or a living trust being administered outside of court. The executor in the case of a will, and the trustee in the case of a living trust, must first notify all beneficiaries and creditors of the estate administration process.
The executor or trustee then must pay all outstanding obligations, including debts and taxes, and collect all the assets. If assets must be sold to meet obligations or as part of the distribution to beneficiaries, then an appraiser and broker might need to be brought in.
Once all the debt and other obligations have been honored, then the executor or trustee can distribute assets to the named beneficiaries. This may sound simple and straightforward, but it’s not always so easy, especially if there are challenges to the will or trust by creditors or those who feel left out or slighted.
Common Estate Administration Disputes
One of the most common disputes simply involves the distribution of assets. Some parties may feel the assets are not being distributed equally or that they are being slighted or left out. Creditors may appear on the scene whom no one ever heard of before.
Disputes of this sort are more frequent if the decedent was married more than once and has different sets of children or stepchildren, even spouses, who may feel they deserve a bigger piece – or at least some piece – of the estate.
Another area for disputes can be the performance of the executor or trustee. Heirs and beneficiaries might sense mismanagement of the process or out-of-control expenses. The issue of fraud might even loom.
Who Can Challenge a Will or Trust?
By law, to challenge a last will and testament or a trust, you must have legal standing. This usually means that you must be an heir (family member), beneficiary, creditor, or another party who has a property right or claim against the estate being administered.
Beneficiaries mean those named in the will. Even if you’re not a beneficiary, if you stand to inherit if the judge rules the will or trust invalid, then you have legal standing.
Rationale for Challenging a Will or Trust
Valid legal reasons to contest a will or trust include:
The deceased was incapacitated when the will was executed
The deceased was under undue influence by someone else
The document was forged
The document was not properly executed and not signed by two witnesses
The right to an elective share by a surviving spouse or domestic partner
The existence of a later, valid will or trust
Unclear provisions in the document
Breach of fiduciary duty by the executor or trustee
Whether it’s a will or trust being disputed, the court with probate jurisdiction will hear arguments and render a decision.
Estate Litigation Attorney Serving Union City, NJ
If you or your family is facing a contested will or trust, or are considering contesting one, contact us immediately at Hudson Law Firm. We will guide you and provide the proper representation to preserve your rights while aiming for the best resolution possible. Hudson Law Firm proudly serves clients across Union City, New Jersey, and the surrounding communities of Jersey City, Bayonne, North Bergen, and Hoboken.