Legal options for family members in conflict over an estate

| Jul 27, 2020 | Firm News |

People in Pennsylvania who have lost a loved one might have concerns about the person’s estate plan. If there is conflict over the estate plan or the person did not leave an estate plan, the family could end up in litigation fighting over what the person’s intentions might have been.

However, going straight into probate litigation is not the only option available. People should start by carefully reading over the will, trust or other estate planning documents. Grieving family members might miss or misunderstand some information. People should also make sure that they have the most recent versions of the person’s estate planning documents. It is not uncommon for individuals to make new versions of wills or other documents throughout their life without fully revoking the previous one. Family members may also want to consider whether it is possible to clarify the individual’s wishes based on conversations or other evidence.

A will may be more vulnerable to a contest since it is public while a trust is private. Estate litigation might also happen if family members are unhappy with the actions of an executor or trustee and believe they have not fulfilled their fiduciary duty. There could be factors that complicate litigation. For example, a will might have a no-contest clause. This can penalize a person who challenges a will and is unsuccessful, leaving them with nothing where they might have received a small inheritance.

People should also fully understand state law and what their rights are under those laws, including what they may be entitled to inherit based on their relationship to the family member. They may want to consult an attorney to discuss how they might proceed. Mediation or arbitration may also be a path to resolution instead of litigation. Arbitration is more adversarial than mediation.