Unfortunately for many people, death brings out the worst in the heirs and the survivors. And, sometimes the individuals chosen in the estate plan as the Executor or the Trustee does not adequately carry out their fiduciary duties appropriately. And to complicate things, many times the decedent did not have competent advice in setting up their Will or their Trust. Part of the problem is compounded thru the use of internet-based estate planning tools. Although the forms may appear easy to complete, there are many complicating factors that are not properly considered in the process. As a result of all of this, estate litigation is prevalent in estate planning. In fact, “when I owned and operated the Dana Law Firm, estate litigation was the fastest growing practice area”, said attorney Matt Dana.
Being good at estate litigation starts with the proposition that you need to be good at estate planning. In other words, it isn’t appropriate for you to hire any litigator, especially someone who is only familiar with civil litigation like contract disputes. Estate litigation is a specialty area in “probate court”, which is different from a normal civil court. Probate court has its own set of rules and procedures. Plus, a thorough understanding of how the estate plan was designed to work is critical in knowing whether or not the fiduciary did anything wrong. Because we have helped clients establish thousands of estate plans, we have seen almost every fact pattern imaginable. Plus, we have a thorough understanding of any estate plan we review.
Many of these matters and issues are time-sensitive. If you are a beneficiary or heir, we recommend that you hire our firm to represent your interests before any wrongdoing of the fiduciary can be committed. We can help make sure that they carry out their fiduciary duties and that they are compensated “reasonably”, but not excessively. If wrongdoing has already been committed, you need to hire us immediately before your rights are lost.
We have experience handling all aspects of being a beneficiary whether or not you are a beneficiary of a Will, or a Trust, or the named beneficiary of an IRA or life insurance. Plus, with our extensive tax background (most of our attorneys are also CPAs or MBAs, and most have Master’s degrees in Taxation called LLMs) we can advise you on the tax consequences of your inheritance. Plus we can make sure the estate does not overpay estate taxes or income taxes.
If you are a charitable organization as a beneficiary, we highly recommend that you hire us immediately to safeguard your share of the inheritance and make sure the fiduciaries do not overcharge the estate. This is especially true if your share of the inheritance is a percentage of the estate, rather than a fixed dollar amount. When you obtain a percentage of the estate, then you want to make sure other beneficiaries are not overpaid, the fiduciary’s compensation is fair and reasonable, and the tax liability was properly calculated.