How to Avoid Estate Disputes in CA
After you pass away, the last thing your family needs is to face a contentious dispute over your estate. Even families who seem to get along can find themselves in conflict over estate and probate issues when a parent or another loved one passes away. Plan ahead to avoid this situation for your family with the help of a Santa Ana estate planning attorney.
Common Estate Disputes
It is first important to understand the types of disputes that commonly arise so you can work to prevent them. The following are only some examples of conflicts that might arise.
When someone passes away, their last will and testament should be submitted to the probate court for review. During the probate process, beneficiaries, heirs, or others with possible interests in the estate can raise challenges to the validity of the will, which is referred to as a will contest. Some common reasons for will contests include:
- Lack of testamentary capacity to make or amend a will
- Undue influence
- Fraud or coercion
If the court finds that a will contest is valid, the judge can deem part or all of the will invalid, and probate will continue according to a prior valid will or California intestate succession law.
Disputes with the Estate Executor or Trust Administrator
When someone is designated as an executor of a will or a successor trustee, they are expected to abide by a fiduciary duty to all beneficiaries or heirs. If someone believes they breached this duty, they can bring legal action against the executor or trustee for removal and/or damages.
Not all estate planning disputes arise after someone dies, as conflict can exist when someone becomes incapacitated by illness or injury. When someone cannot take care of their own affairs, the court can appoint a guardian to do so. There might be different people who have different ideas of who should be the guardian, which can lead to disputes.
The good news is that the estate planning process allows you to plan ahead to try to avoid legal disputes whenever possible. Some steps you can take include:
- Making sure your will is validly executed, and there are not questions regarding your capacity or any undue influence when you sign the will
- Selecting individuals to serve as executor and trust administrators who you trust to act without bias or self-serving interests and to uphold other aspects of their fiduciary duty
- Having both medical and financial powers of attorney in place that clearly give someone the authority to handle your affairs, which eliminates the need for a guardianship case
Seek Assistance from a California Estate Planning Lawyer Today
A Santa Ana estate planning attorney from the Law Offices of Roshni T. Desai can help you design an estate plan that helps prevent conflicts from arising following your incapacitation or death. Please contact us online or call 714.694.1200 to discuss your estate planning options and the many ways that we can help you.