In California most wills go through probate proceedings without a significant dispute. Similarly, most trusts are administered without any controversy. But occasionally a conflict arises among family members, between family members and an executor or between family members and trustees. When this happens it is critical for a party to the dispute to knowledgeably assert their rights under the law.
Hurt feelings can arise when family members believe they were not treated fairly in their loved one’s will or trust. If there is evidence the unfairness resulted not from the testator’s or settlor’s wishes, but from the undue influence of another person, it may be necessary to pursue probate or trust litigation. Family members may be able to prove that an outsider cultivated a confidential relationship with the decedent and took advantage of that relationship to influence the decedent to make a bequest to them.
Sometimes a will or trust is contested on the grounds that the decedent lacked the requisite mental capacity to make a valid estate plan. Those contesting the document may prevail if they can establish that the decedent lacked the ability to understand the extent of their assets or the identity of their loved ones.
Probate or trust litigation is time-consuming and unpleasant. It is important to conduct it in a manner that is economically justified by how much is actually at stake. In many cases, these disputes can be resolved most efficiently through negotiation. In my law practice I am committed to finding just but cost-effective solutions to disputes that arise from wills and trusts.