A person’s estate is their property, money, or debts, which is left behind when they die. If a creditor claims the deceased owed them money, or if a beneficiary does not believe the will is valid, or if there is any other scenario that challenges the person’s will (which there can be many), a claim or contest is filed and the estate is considered in litigation.
If a beneficiary does not feel as though they were treated “fairly” in the will, they can contest and litigation ensues. If the person creating or signing the will is determined incapacitated at the time, the will can be contested. However, the most common cause of estate litigation is fraud or duress, where the creator of the will is under the influence of another person and re-writes their will for this person to become the main beneficiary. This is sometimes a family member or caretaker who arranges the appointment with a lawyer, is present during the meeting, and may even pay the attorney or other professionals for changes made to the will.
Most estate litigation is ordered by the court to mediation in order to settle the issue. “Mediation is a process where a certified mediator listens to both sides and attempts to facilitate an agreement between the parties. If mediation is unsuccessful, then the court will schedule a hearing or trial on the matter and render a binding decision.”1
1. WiseGeek. (n.d.). What is Estate Litigation? Retrieved from http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-estate-litigation.htm
O’Dell, C. (n.d.). Trust & Estate Litigation: Its Common Causes. The Wealth Counselor: A Monthly Newsletter for Wealth Planning Professionals. 5 (6). Retrieved from http://www.advisorsforum.com/newsletterpreview.aspx?newsletter=wealthcounselor0044.htm&id=61461\