Litigation is a very specialized area of law and that is why it is important to have a law firm that has experience in handling these matters on your side.
Our litigation attorneys are not only skilled at handling cases, but draw on a thorough knowledge base of the specific procedures surrounding these issues. The Andersen Firm can efficiently take each case through to completion realizing that full blown litigation often can be avoided if we work diligently to come to resolution.
The last thing you want to happen after your death is that your children and loved ones become embroiled in a lawsuit, fighting over your estate. Strange things happen (or perhaps we should say people act strangely) when money is at stake. But litigation should be avoided at all costs. It tends to become a defining moment in a family – something that divides families for generations to come. The costs of litigation have been known to wipe out entire estates so that no one receives anything, except the lawyers of course.
The best way to avoid litigation is to go through a program of comprehensive estate and financial planning, making your wishes crystal clear, and putting into place the legal tools necessary to enforce your wishes. But even with the best plan, you can’t guarantee that litigation will not occur. People can sue anyone for anything at any time – and you never know when a disgruntled ex-spouse or distant relative will appear to file a claim against an estate.
If that happens, an estate litigation attorney should be retained to represent the beneficiaries, Trustees, and personal representatives in various jurisdictions dealing with estate litigation and probate litigation matters.
A will contest challenges the admission of a will to probate or seeks to revoke the probate of a will that is already pending before the Probate Court. Because a trust is not part of the public record in the same way that a will is, it is usually tougher to contest the terms of a trust. But it’s not impossible. The most common causes of action in both will contests and estate litigation include the following:
- LACK OF CAPACITY – Under the law, a testator is required to have mental competency to make a Last Will and Testament or trust and to understand the nature of his or her estate assets and the people to whom the estate assets are going to be distributed. A will or trust can be declared void if lack of capacity can be proven. Usually, incompetence is established through a prior medical diagnosis of dementia, senility, Alzheimer’s or psychosis.
- UNDUE INFLUENCE – When the testator is compelled or coerced to execute a will or trust by a relative, friend, trusted advisor, or health care worker, that is called undue influence. In many cases, the undue “influencer” will upset a long-established estate plan where the bulk of the estate was to pass to the descendants or close relatives of the decedent. In other cases, one child of the decedent will coerce the parent to write the other children out of the will or trust.
- LACK OF FORMALITIES – In most states, proper execution of a Last Will and Testament or trust requires that the will or trust is signed by the testator and witnessed and signed by two unrelated parties. A Last Will and Testament can be contested on the basis that it was not properly drafted, signed, or witnessed in accordance with the law.
- BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY – The personal representative of an estate or the trustee of a trust owes the beneficiaries of the estate or trust certain fiduciary duties of honesty, prudence, and loyalty. When those duties are violated by a trustee or personal representative, a cause of action arises.
- ELECTIVE SHARE – Some states provide an elective share to surviving spouses, which provides the surviving spouse with a portion of the deceased spouse’s estate according to a statutory formula. Deadlines may be associated to make the elective share.
- FORGED DOCUMENTS – If someone suspects that estate planning documents such as a will or a trust are forged, or that signatures have been forged, there will definitely be a legal challenge to the plan.
Real Estate and Contract Litigation
The Andersen Firm can assist you with your legal needs regarding real estate and contract litigation including contract disputes, escrow deposit disputes, interpleader actions, breach of contract actions, quiet title actions, residential and commercial eviction matters, and probate matters necessary to allow for the disposition of real estate titled in the name of those who are deceased.
General Civil Litigation
If you find yourself involved in a legal dispute, hiring a qualified litigation attorney is crucial to achieving a successful outcome, whether through litigation or arbitration. Do not trust such matters to an attorney who has little to no trial experience. The litigation attorneys and staff at The Andersen Firm have handled hundreds of contested trials before judges and juries, and have also mediated hundreds of matters to successful conclusions. These years of experience affords our clients the benefit of our counsel.