Your Options For Contesting A Will Or Pursuing Estate Litigation
We all hope our loved ones leave behind wills and estate documents which do not raise questions of validity or direction. However, this does not always happen.
There are occasions when an existing will may not be valid and should not be enforced. For example, if a person lacked the capacity to make a valid will or if they were coerced into signing documents through undue influence or fraud. In some cases, the individual may simply have failed to follow the necessary legal formalities to create a legally binding document. Both Massachusetts and Vermont have laws and procedures for challenging the validity of a will.
Common Reasons To Contest A Will
When an individual makes a will, they must be of “sound mind” and have “testamentary capacity,” meaning that they must be able to understand the actions they are taking and the obvious consequences of those actions.
In many cases, an elderly person who suffers from an illness affecting mental facilities, such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or late-stage cancer, may not have the sufficient mental capacity required to sign, create or modify a will or a trust. Elderly individuals may also be taken advantage of by caretakers, friends, or even family and coerced into signing a will through undue influence or even fraud.
Our team of litigators at Donovan O'Connor & Dodig, LLP, is prepared to represent you or your family in a will contest, including cases involving:
- Undue influence
- Lack of mental capacity
- Failure to observe legal formalities
- Breach of fiduciary duty
If you or a loved one has been negatively affected by a change to a will or trust, or the creation of a new will or trust, you may have the right to challenge the validity of that will. If you do not contest a will within the specific time allowed by the probate court, you may be forever barred from doing so.
When Trust Litigation Becomes Necessary
Trust litigation develops when someone challenges the validity of a trust or finds fault with the way the trustee is handling assets in the trust. Are you a beneficiary of a trust who has lost out because of a trustee’s breach of fiduciary duty? Alternatively, are you a trustee in need of defense counsel after a creditor or a would-be trustee claims that you are acting improperly or that the trust you are handling is erroneously structured?
Whatever side of trust litigation you find yourself on, our trial lawyers are prepared to advocate for your position while upholding the integrity of the trust whenever possible.
Other Types Of Probate Litigation
Considering the material nature of estates, probate litigation naturally focuses on assets—such as bank accounts, real estate and other valuables—and the distribution of those assets. Besides bringing a will contest or alleging breach of fiduciary duty by a trustee, a plaintiff in probate litigation may also need to pursue the following objectives:
- An action for breach of fiduciary duty if the personal representative handling the estate mismanages the distribution of assets
- An action to quiet title to prepare for the sale or transfer of a home or other real estate
- Secure property, such as guns or jewelry, that someone wrongly took from the estate before it was settled
- A claim alleging tortious interference of an expected inheritance or against a person or entity that may have taken actions to thwart the expected settling of an estate
Whatever the issue, and regardless of which side of a controversy you find yourself on, our estate and probate litigation attorneys are well-prepared to represent your interests while protecting the integrity of the estate.
Helping You After Your Loss
Aside from offering representation in an array of probate and estate litigation, we offer flexibility in fee arrangements, including contingency-based fee agreements or hybrid fee agreements, in certain cases as well.
If we take on your estate litigation matter with this understanding, you will not owe attorney fees until we make a financial recovery on your behalf.
For a consultation with an estate litigation lawyer at Donovan O'Connor & Dodig, LLP, contact our firm. We have offices in North Adams and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and Bennington, Vermont, to serve you. Call us at 413-663-3200 in Massachusetts or at 802-442-3233 in Vermont.