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After the death of a loved one, inheritance issues can surface. These matters are legal issues, and no one should try to navigate them alone. Having the assistance of an Orange County, CA estate planning attorney can help ensure that any disputes are handled in a legally concise manner that protects everyone involved.

Most individuals and families believe that all wills are legally binding. While that is true in most cases, there are instances when a will may not have been not properly created or there may have been fraud or undue influence involved. At times, disputes can arise between family members, or concerns surface regarding the legality of a do-it-yourself or internet will.

While you cannot just contest a will because you don’t like its terms, there are times when the authenticity of a will or influence over its execution are valid legal concerns that should be addressed by an experienced professional. 

Common Family Concerns After the Death of a Loved One

After the death of a family member, there are many emotional and financial matters that must be considered. These are further complicated by the complexities of the probate process itself; the validity of the estate planning documents themselves, or the actions of trustees or executors.

There are times when the surviving family does have legitimate cause for concern regarding inheritance issues. These usually involve:

  • The perception of some inequity in the allocation of an inheritance – Changes in wills happen, and these can leave family members with very different inheritance outcomes and concerns about the difference in the inheritance between themselves and other family members. Particularly when significant changes are made prior to the individual’s death, this may cause concern for some surviving family members.
  • Wrongful acts, forgery, and undue influence – Surviving family members may have concerns about possible fraud or undue influence by someone who may have had influence over their loved one in their final years. This individual may have coaxed them to make changes in their documents, leaving suspicious or unreasonable gifts to unrelated persons such as caregivers or other fiduciaries.
  • Documents improperly executed – Wills and other estate planning documents should be properly executed, witnessed, and notarized to be legally valid. Improper execution may be cause for heirs to dispute the documents in question.
  • Lack of testamentary capacity – The creator of the will lacked the mental capacity to make the document in question.
  • The real intention of the deceased party – A family may struggle with the intentions and plans of their loved one and whether they understood the implications of their will. This can be particularly difficult when that loved one is no longer there to speak for themselves.
  • Lack of compliance by an executor or trustee – The executor or trustee has not complied with their fiduciary duties or made timely distributions.

Other complications can arise after the death of a loved one. Some assets are transferred outside the probate process. Small estates, life insurance benefits, retirement benefits, assets held in trusts, joint bank accounts, and real properties held jointly will transfer outside the formal probate process with little court oversight. It is important to have a knowledgeable professional ensuring that these transfers take place legally, properly, and in a timely fashion.

Getting the Skilled Legal Assistance of an Orange County, CA Estate Planning Attorney

Having the representation of an experienced estate attorney during an inheritance dispute can offer you the best possible outcome. When you believe that there are reasons to contest a loved one’s will, your attorney will advise you on whether you have valid legal grounds to do so and how they apply to your case. Your lawyer will collect evidence in support of your case and represent you during possible estate mediation, litigation, or before the probate courts.

If you have questions about contesting a will or have concerns about an inheritance, the Orange County, CA estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Roshni T. Desai can help. Call our offices at 714.694.1200 or contact us via our website contact form to schedule a free consultation.

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