Probate Litigation

When a loved one dies, a probate court usually oversees the process
of sorting out the decedent’s estate and ensuring that the instructions
in the Will and Trust are upheld.

What to expect
The process of administering an estate is not always routine or amicable families may disagree about distribution plans or even the content of these documents. Strohschein Law Group uses settlement, mediation or litigation to help families clarify the terms of a loved one’s Will, Trust or Power of Attorney, and resolve any disputes over these documents. We are experienced in handling Will and Trust contests, claims against the estate and contested guardianships.

Probate Litigation Case Studies

Competing Siblings Sought Guardianship for Disabled Brother

Our office was contacted by John who wanted to protect his brother Jack whose mental abilities were declining due to illness. A guardianship estate was sought and an emergency temporary guardianship was put into place for protective purposes. Another brother Jerome also sought guardianship and filed his own petition for guardianship. Both sides were distrustful of the other and despite several attempts at settlement, neither side was able to come to an agreement. The Court heard testimony at the trial trying to resolve two open issues.

The first issue was whether Jack was in need of a guardianship. The second issue was which of the two siblings would be able to provide the best quality of care and oversight of the disabled sibling’s finances. The Court determined that a guardianship was necessary and appointed John as both Guardian of the Estate and Person. A visitation schedule was put into place and the family was able to resolve some of their differences.

Complex Estate Involving Over 100 Claims Requesting Payment

Our attorneys represented the Executor of the estate and Trustee of the trust in managing Christopher’s estate who died leaving significant debts. After notification to all known and unknown creditors, it was determined that there were over 100 legitimate creditors entitled to payment of their debts.

At the same time, the Trustee sought the direction of the Court in interpreting an unusual trust document that was thought to be a “listed transaction” by the Internal Revenue Service. Christopher appeared to have created an illegal asset protection trust during his lifetime in an attempt to avoid payments to his many creditors. Christopher was led to believe that a Revocable Trust could help him avoid his creditors, which it cannot do. Upon his death, the insurance proceeds were payable to such trust, which the Trustee could not in good faith honor without incurring personal tax liability. Christopher also did not pay his income taxes in the three years prior to his death, resulting in additional claims against his estate. Even though Christopher had significant debts which consumed all of the proceeds from the insurance policy, its very existence required the filing of a Federal Estate Tax Return. Without the right advice during his lifetime, Christopher’s estate ended up being much more complex and much more costly to administer upon his death.

NOTE: The above examples are provided as a tool to begin the discussion about probate litigation, which usually involves a disagreement about how assets should have been spent or who should be involved in the decision making process for someone who is disabled. The above examples are not intended as legal advice and should not be construed as such. Do not rely upon the above examples for your own planning without the advice of an experienced attorney to guide you based on the facts of your particular situation. State and county laws vary significantly.