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4 Common Estate Litigation Claims

Mar 29, 2024

When a person dies, it’s always hard on the family; emotions run high no matter what the circumstances of death were like or how tight-knit the family is. Grief can sometimes bring out the worst in people. When a large sum of money or important family heirlooms are involved, sometimes families end up arguing bitterly over who should get what and how the estate should be handled.

Estate litigation claims are some of the most sensitive, personal legal issues, and how they are handled and resolved has the potential to affect family relationships for generations. That is why it is so important to be as informed as possible about your rights and options if you find yourself in a situation where your family is fighting after the death of a loved one.

Knowledge is power! If you are the estate executor, knowing about the common types of estate litigation claims may help you anticipate problems (potentially avoiding them altogether) or help you know what to do if one of these claims does arise in the process of you administering the estate. If you are a beneficiary who stands to inherit part of your loved one’s estate, and you believe that something is wrong, you may be able to bring one or more of these claims to assert your rights and ensure your loved one’s legacy is upheld.

Here are four common estate litigation claims and what you should know about each:

1 – Claims Of Undue Influence

Although we might like to believe the best of people, it’s an unfortunate fact that there are those who will take advantage of your loved one’s vulnerable state (or accuse you of doing so!). “Undue influence” is a specific form of coercion; it occurs when someone–usually a family member, friend, caregiver, or person in a position of authority–uses their influence to coerce an elderly or vulnerable loved one to change their will in a way that is advantageous to them. It’s essential to note that these changes in the estate plan are due to manipulation or force, and they do not reflect the actions a person would take of their own free will.

Undue influence can take many forms. Often, a person will become a more pronounced figure in a person’s life while they are nearing their death or while they are in some manner incapacitated. The person will either create a new will or change their existing will in order to favor the influencer. The undue influence can occur because the individual is suffering from an illness like dementia that reduces their cognitive capacity or because they are being manipulated with threats, physical violence, or being isolated from other friends and family.

If you suspect that your family member was subject to undue influence, do not wait! The estate litigation lawyers at Lam Legal have successfully resolved many cases involving undue influence against vulnerable individuals. We can help you ensure that your loved one’s final wishes will be upheld despite any manipulation from bad actors. If you are being suspected of undue influence, we can help you gather evidence to make a case that your loved one acted out of their own desires.

2 – Capacity Claims

Similar to claims of undue influence, capacity claims challenge the will on the basis that it was not created or amended with full soundness of mind. In order to create or amend a will, the testator (the person creating the will) must be of full mental capacity. It’s essential that they understand a) the extent of their estate and the wealth it contains and b) the ramifications of their choices regarding their will. Challenges to a will based on capacity usually occur when a family member has created or amended a will late in life while suffering from dementia or another form of neurodegenerative illness.

If you are concerned that your loved one’s will was established without proper mental capacity, you can challenge it with the help of the estate litigation lawyers at Lam Legal. On the other hand, if someone has brought a challenge of lack of testamentary capacity against your loved one’s estate, we can help you investigate and refute these claims. This type of claim requires evaluation by mental health experts, who will be able to establish whether or not your loved one lacked the capacity to amend their will. Our lawyers will investigate your case, consult the relevant experts, and file the necessary paperwork to ensure that the inheritance is being distributed fairly.

3 – Breach Of Trust Claims

When you are the executor of an estate, you have a fiduciary duty to ensure that you are acting in the best interests of the beneficiaries of the will. If you are found to be in violation of your duty, you are at risk of being subject to penalties ranging from removal from your position to steep fines.

There are several ways in which an executor can be found in violation, including:

  • Not fulfilling their role in a timely manner; missing deadlines
  • Failing to respond to requests of the beneficiaries
  • Mishandling assets from the estate
  • Inaccurate reporting on the assets of the estate
  • Causing the estate to lose value
  • Otherwise failing to act in the interest of the beneficiaries

If you feel that the executor of the estate is not fulfilling the needs of their role, you can petition to have them removed and replaced. In order to do so, the lawyers at Lam Legal can help you gather evidence against the executor and present your case.

Alternatively, if you are the executor of the estate and you are dealing with breach of trust claims that you feel are baseless, we can help you defend your actions pertaining to your role.

4 – Will Variation

The Wills Variation Act of British Columbia provides for children and spouses who have been unfairly left out of a will. If a will does not adequately provide for immediate family members, it can be challenged under section 60 of the Wills, Estates, and Succession Act. The court can respond by varying the will so that the family will receive the support they need.

In determining what is a just amount to provide for spouses and children, the court will take several factors into account, including:

  • The size of the estate
  • The financial needs of the family members
  • The testator’s reasons for disinheritance

If you feel that you have been wrongly left out of your loved one’s will, we can help you present your grievances to the court. If, on the other hand, you feel that a loved one’s estate is being unfairly challenged on the basis of the Wills Variation Act, we can defend the will of your loved one and prove that their intentions for disinheritance were justified.

The Experienced Estate Litigation Lawyers At Lam Legal Can Help

If the estate of your loved one is facing a claim, the trial-tested lawyers of Lam Legal can fight for you. We know your rights and can help you ensure that justice prevails. Reach out to book a free consultation with us and we can help you understand your legal options when facing a scenario involving estate litigation.