Sometimes when a person dies there are questions about whether their will accurately reflects their intentions. A will contest is a formal objection raised against the validity of a will. The objection may proceed on the contention that the will does not reflect the actual intent of the testator, that the testator did not possess testamentary capacity at the time the will was executed, or that the will is a product of undue influence. Cartwright Baer Johansson PC prosecutes and defends will contests.
In an effort to avoid probate, many people use Revocable Living Trusts as "will substitutes." As with wills, there can be questions surrounding the creation of a trust and whether that trust reflects the true intentions of the settlor (the person who made the trust). Trust contests are sometimes based on the contention that the trust does not reflect the actual intent of the settlor, that the settlor did not possess the requisite capacity at the time the trust was executed, or that the trust was executed or that the trust is the product of undue influence. Cartwright Baer Johansson PC prosecutes and defends trust contests.
Declaratory Judgment Actions
Wills and trusts are only two types of estate planning. Other forms include the creation of joint ownership interests in real property or financial accounts, beneficiary designations on insurance policies, or pay-on-death designations on financial accounts. These interests and designations may be challenged after death through a declaratory judgment proceeding, on grounds that the decedent lacked capacity or was induced to make the designation through undue influence.
Personal representatives of estates and trustees are fiduciaries and must perform certain statutory duties in administering an estate or trust. If a fiduciary fails or neglects to perform these duties that fiduciary may be subject to an action for removal.
For example, fiduciaries who take action in direct contravention to the terms of a trust or a will or who engage in "self-dealing" (putting their own interest ahead of the interests of the beneficiaries) may be subject to removal.
A removal action may also be available if a fiduciary fails to adhere to statutory duties, such as keeping beneficiaries informed of the status of the trust or estate. Fiduciaries have been removed for failure to follow proper accounting procedures, failure to file a timely accounting, making bad investments, financial commingling, and for substantial conflicts of interest. Cartwright Baer Johansson PC initiates and defends against removal actions.
Administration of Estates
Our attorneys are experienced in representing personal representatives in the routine administration of non-taxable estates. Estate administration (probate) is required when a person dies owning property in his or her name. Duties of a personal representative in administering an estate include collection and valuing of assets, notification to creditors, payment of debts and liabilities, filing and payment of all required tax returns, selling assets as appropriate and final distribution of estate assets. We work with personal representatives to make the probate process as simple and efficient as possible.