Estate Litigation & Disputes

Some beneficiaries receive less estate funds than others. This is not an uncommon practice, for example: Parents may disown a child who was exceedingly rebellious, or leave a greater portion of their estate to the child who has provided years of care giving; sometimes the caregiver child feels entitled to more than his or her legal share of the estate; an aunt may choose to leave the vast majority of her funds to a charity or a friend rather than her family members; a person may choose to name his cousin as his executor or trustee instead of his spouse. Such unexpected arrangements are not uncommon, but can throw those involved for a loop.

However, there are also cases in which these arrangements are too questionable to ignore: Should the housekeeper be receiving the majority of a person’s estate? Why did the caregiver child receive all of his parent’s funds? What happened to the family jewelry and art collection, which is now missing? If you believe the deceased person was unduly influenced or fraudulently scammed, legal recourse may be available to you.


Representing the Executor and / or Trustee

A fiduciary to the estate has an obligation to ensure that the decedent’s wishes are fulfilled; gross negligence, fraud or collusion against the estate may lead to the fiduciary being personally liable for damages to the estate or its beneficiaries. If a beneficiary is so disgruntled as to initiate a suit against the Executor or Trustee, which they may do on their own or with legal representation, the fiduciary must defend the estate. If the beneficiary does retain legal counsel to represent them, the fiduciary should consider retaining his or her own legal counsel as soon as possible. Remember, litigation is the lead-up to trial, and small mistakes and miscalculations early in the process have a tendency of snowballing into major obstacles in the future.

 Representing the Suspicious or Disinherited Beneficiary

It is an unfortunate reality that there are a large number of financial predators who prey upon the elderly and the disabled. This may be someone the intended beneficiary never met, a professional caregiver who was never trusted, or even a selfish family member. If you believe that a financial predator has fraudulently induced or unduly influenced a person who intended to leave you a portion of his or her estate, you should contact an experienced estate-planning attorney immediately in order to avoid your claim being filed too late.

 Surrogate’s Court Proceedings

If you are unfortunate enough to get through the initial phase of a contested Probate only to have the Fiduciary make an egregious mistake, or if you are that fiduciary who has done nothing wrong but are being accused of breaching your fiduciary duty, you may be facing one of the many specialized court proceedings most people have never heard of. If you are a part of a Turnover Proceeding, Fiduciary Accounting, are accused of having a Confidential Relationship, or are bringing a Will dispute to trial, the chances are that you will need specialized representation: The Surrogate’s Court has different rules of service, process and procedure, all of which require familiarity before even commencing a formal action.


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