When someone passes away, surviving family members will have important tasks to complete and decisions to make. In an ideal world, everyone will be in agreement, decisions will be made harmoniously, and unpleasant tasks will be completed cooperatively. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
When family members disagree about end-of-life decisions, the competency of the executor, how assets are distributed, or the validity of the testament, they often wind up in court. Find out what conflicts commonly arise, how they could have been avoided, and how an attorney can help.
Typical Cases We Litigate at SVHC Law
Despite the many differences among the families we represent, their legal disputes are often very similar. To give you an idea of the kinds of disputes we typically see when family members are settling an estate, take a look at some representative cases we have tried:
- Invalid Last Will & Testament. After the death of their grandmother, our client and other family members disagreed with how the aunt, who had been named the executor of the estate, was handling things. After examining the testament, we discovered that it had been signed by the grandmother when she was legally blind and was lacking the required language stating as such. We were able to invalidate the will in court and remove the aunt as executor.
- Removing the executor. In another case, our client believed the executor of his father’s estate was overreaching her power. We were able to show that she was serving her own self-interest and not the estate. At trial, the judge agreed and ordered the estate to be closed and assets to be transferred to the heirs, bypassing the executor completely.
- Forcing the closure of an ongoing estate. We often hear from people who are involved in successions that have been dragging on for years. With our many years of succession experience, we are able to identify and solve the problem and get the estate closed.
- Partition actions. It is fairly common for a family home to be left to all the children as co-owners. Usually, the children sell the home and split the proceeds. However, when one of the heirs is living in the home and does not want to move, the other heirs may have to file a partition action to force the sale of the property and the eviction of the person living in the house. We oversee many such cases every year.
These are just a few of the kinds of cases we litigate for our clients in the New Orleans area. Many of these conflicts could have been avoided if the decedent had made certain decisions and filed certain documents well before his or her death.
How to Protect Your Loved Ones From These Conflicts
If you have been through litigation over a family member’s estate and want to prevent the same thing from happening after your death, a comprehensive estate plan can go a long way towards ensuring harmony among your heirs. The following elements of a complete plan can help your heirs tremendously after you are gone:
- Last Will and Testament. This is an obvious one, but if you share the contents of your testament with family members while you are alive, you can prevent confusion later on. It is also important that you discuss who you are choosing to be the executor so that there are no surprises when the testament is read. Finally, if you decide to change your will at some point, you should inform the parties who will be affected by the changes.
- Living trust. A trust-based estate can save heirs the trouble of a succession and can avoid conflicts over inheritance because the assets are already in the beneficiary’s name and will immediately pass to them according to the terms of the trust.
- Special needs trust. If you have a child with special needs who will need to be cared for after you are gone, this kind of trust will make sure his financial needs are met without having to involve other family members.
It’s never too early to discuss your estate planning goals with an experienced estate litigation attorney. Not only will you get much-needed peace of mind, but you could also be preserving future family harmony.
Our Litigators Are Here to Help With Your Family’s Estate
The estate team at SVHC Law, Estate & Probate Division litigates hundreds of cases on behalf of heirs every year, so it is likely we have seen and dealt with the situation you are facing. Let our experience work for you to resolve an estate issue in court. Contact us in our New Orleans office to get started today.