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Common Estate Disputes

Caleb Bland Law, PLLC May 12, 2023

Estate disputes commonly arise when the deceased’s assets are distributed according to the terms of a will or trust, or when family members argue over the validity of the document itself. Unfortunately, these disputes can be time-consuming, emotionally wrenching, costly, and can even lead to permanent estrangement among family members. 

Dealing with estate disputes can be stressful and overwhelming. Still, with the right legal advice and guidance, you can resolve any conflicts that may arise. Our estate planning attorney at Caleb Bland Law, PLLC can help you create an estate plan in a way that minimizes the possibility of estate disputes in the long run.  

From his office in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, our knowledgeable and attentive attorney serves clients throughout the state, including in Nelson County, Hardin County, LaRue County, Breckinridge County, Jefferson County, Grayson County, Meade County, Bullitt County, and Hart County, as well as Radcliff, Louisville, Brandenburg, Bardstown, Hodgenville, Leitchfield, and Shepherdsville.  

What Is an Estate Dispute?

An estate dispute is just what it sounds like. It is a dispute that often arises between beneficiaries or family members and is related to a person’s estate planning documents. An estate dispute can arise for many reasons, including when someone believes that the will or trust is invalid, unclear, or ambiguous. Disputes also arise when the estate’s assets are distributed in a manner that can be perceived as unfair.  

Common Estate Disputes

Estate disputes can occur for a wide range of reasons. However, some of the most common estate disputes are:  

1. Validity of Will 

One of the most common estate disputes is whether the deceased’s will is valid or not. Sometimes, family members or other interested parties may argue that the will was signed under duress, that the deceased was coerced into signing it, or that it was created when they were not of sound mind or capacity.  

Note: In Kentucky, a person creating a will must be an adult (at least 18 years of age) and of sound mind, according to the state’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Kentucky law also requires that the document is signed by two witnesses.  

2. Undue Influence 

Another reason for challenging a will and other estate planning documents is undue influence. This means that someone close to the deceased – typically a spouse, child, or caregiver – exerted enough influence to persuade them to change the terms of their estate plan to their advantage.  

3. Breach of Fiduciary Duty 

A person acting as an executor or trustee has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries. Breaching this duty (for example, by mismanaging the estate or failing to distribute assets properly) may make the executor/trustee subject to legal action.  

4. Lack of Testamentary Capacity 

If the deceased did not have the mental capacity to understand the terms of their will or another estate planning document or the consequences of their actions when they signed it, the document may be invalid. This can occur if the individual was suffering from a serious illness, under the influence of medication, or experiencing cognitive decline.  

5. Conflicts With the Executor 

Sometimes, beneficiaries or other interested parties may disagree with the actions of the executor, such as the selling of assets or distribution of funds. This may lead to disputes and could require legal intervention to resolve.  

6. Disputes Over Property Distribution 

Estate disputes can also arise because of the distribution of assets. Sometimes, beneficiaries may not agree with how assets are being split or feel that they are entitled to a larger share. In these cases, it is important to refer to the terms of the will and to ensure that all parties understand and agree to the distribution plan. 

Remedies for Estate Disputes

There are several remedies available to resolve estate disputes:  

  • Mediation. One of the easiest ways is mediation, where a neutral mediator assists the parties in sorting out their differences amicably without going to court.  

  • Litigation. While litigation is another option, it always comes with risk, both emotional and financial.  

  • Removal of the executor. Removal of the executor is another remedy that can be utilized when an executor is not following the instructions set forth in the will.  

Other remedies exist, depending on the type and nature of the dispute that has arisen. Consider speaking with a knowledgeable attorney to discuss your specific case and explore possible remedies.  

How Can You Prevent Estate Disputes When Creating an Estate Plan?

One of the best steps you can take to minimize the risk of estate disputes is to communicate with your family about your wishes, particularly about the distribution of assets. This helps to ensure that your family understands your wishes and can help to prevent disagreements early on.  

You should also make sure that you are selecting the right executor when writing your will. The executor should be someone who will respect your wishes fairly. Finally, you need to keep accurate and up-to-date arrangements in your estate planning documents. 

An Attorney Can Help Minimize the Risk of Estate Disputes

In creating an estate plan, it is crucial to seek professional help from an experienced attorney. An attorney can help in drafting a will, trusts, and other documents in a way that can minimize the risk of estate disputes. The attorney can also provide personalized guidance on the steps you should take to ensure that everything is in order. Seeking this advice can help protect your loved ones from the long-lasting emotional and financial repercussions of being embroiled in an estate dispute. 

Diligently Advocating for Your Best Interests  

You should strive to minimize the possibility of estate disputes when creating your estate plan. Our estate planning attorney at Caleb Bland Law, PLLC can assist you with creating an estate plan in a way that honors your wishes and avoids potential disputes. Reach out to our office in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, to discuss your situation with our team of experts.