The loss of a parent or grandparent is a devastating event, and disputes over inheritance issues only compound that trauma. Before filing litigation against your family members, weigh the pros and cons of using these questions as a guide.
1. What is the real issue?
When a family member passes away, some relatives may be unhappy with how the deceased chose to allocate their assets. But, is this just hurt feelings or a legitimate legal issue? The deceased might have been your favorite aunt or uncle, but that does not necessarily give you legal standing to contest the will.
There are valid reasons to challenge the distribution of an estate. They include:
· Was the deceased’s will legal and binding?
· Did anyone exert inappropriate influence over the deceased?
· Was the deceased of sound mind when executing the will?
· Is the will legitimate? Or could it be a forged document?
If you believe that one or more of these points pertain to your case, contact Litowich Law, PC and speak with an experienced attorney to move forward.
2. What are the effects on the family?
When considering filing litigation in an estate dispute, keep in mind that there is no guarantee you will be successful. However, regardless of the outcome, a contentious lawsuit will likely be traumatic for the entire family, not just the named defendant. You may find yourself estranged from your loved ones for the rest of your life.
3. How much will this cost, and how long does it take?
Contesting the distribution of an estate is a complicated process and may take years to finalize. And, as we mentioned earlier, there is no guarantee of a favorable resolution.
The costs involved in estate litigation not only include legal fees for both parties to the lawsuit but also court costs and other expenses, such as tracking down and deposing a witness or retaining an expert witness. The total expenditure involved in prolonged litigation could end up being higher than the amount of the estate, which would be an unwise economic decision.
4. What if you are not successful?
We have already mentioned a couple of drawbacks of filing estate litigation: possible loss of family and significant money output. Those might be justifiable if you succeed in the lawsuit. But, what if you lose the case?
No one can guarantee how a lawsuit will be resolved. There are too many variables that could affect the outcome, such as the judge’s personal bias, an unfavorable surprise witness, or your star witness being unavailable. Your attorney can guide the case’s legal aspect, but you must be emotionally and financially prepared for the worst.
5. What are the other options?
Before pursuing any options, litigation or otherwise, have a frank discussion with your attorney about the case’s legal issues. An objective analysis of the pros and cons, coupled with estimated costs and time, is a significant factor in deciding your next move.
Non-litigation options are less costly and may not result in family alienation. Your attorney might negotiate with the attorney for the estate and resolve the dispute. If negotiations are not successful, consider dispute resolution processes such as binding and non-binding mediation. Filing a lawsuit should be the last resort and used only when all other attempts at settlement have failed.
If faced with an inheritance dispute, these five questions, along with your attorney’s guidance, will allow you to make the best decision for your future.
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