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Five Signs That You Might Need to Hire a Santa Clara Estate Litigation Attorney

Five Signs That You Might Need to Hire a Santa Clara Estate Litigation Attorney.jpgThe death of a family member is a very difficult time. In some cases, dealing with the estate can make a difficult situation even less pleasant. Because there are emotions and family relationships involved, people often ignore the warning signs that the estate is being mishandled. Unfortunately, people often wait until it's too late or it's very expensive to reverse the damage done.

If you're involved in an estate case, it's important to keep to keep two things in mind: (1) that the deceased created binding legal documents that direct what is to be done with his or her property; and (2) that the trustee or administrator has a legal obligation to follow the directions contained in those documents.

If you suspect that the estate is not being administered properly, you should consider consulting with a Santa Clara estate litigation lawyer who specializes in estate litigation. Other friends of family members may discourage you from retaining a lawyer. They may tell you to drop it or "just let it go." They may even suggest that you are being greedy or acting out of resentment or bitterness. For these reasons, it's really important that you seek professional advice from an experienced attorney who is independent-an attorney who is in your corner, and no one else's. To schedule a free consultation with a lawyer call our office today at (916) 313-3030 from Santa Clara or (213) 357-5200 from Los Angeles, or send us an email through our online contact form.

With that in mind, we'd like to go over some of the signs that you may need to hire an estate litigation attorney.

1.) The administrator or trustee is slow to act or refuses to act. This may happen for a variety of reasons, but is often a serious cause for concern. It could be the case that the administrator is overwhelmed by the passing of the deceased, or maybe have had changes in her life that make it extremely difficult (has moved away, grown older and in poor health). Sometimes it's because the administrator doesn't know how to proceed because he or she really isn't qualified to administer the estate and won't engage professional help. Other times it's because they don't want to proceed as directed by the estate documents because they are acting in their own self-interest at the expense of the beneficiaries.

2.) There are "surprises" in the estate documents. Another red flag is if you or others are shocked by what is contained in the estate documents. For example, one member of the family may be given preferential treatment over another family member, or someone may have been cut out of the will entirely. Inheritance by ex-wives and estranged friends or family members are often cause for concern. There may be assets that have disappeared or have been disposed of in ways that are inconsistent with the deceased's wishes. These could be signs that someone coerced the deceased into changing the estate documents or that there are updated estate documents that were lost or improperly filed. Don't ignore your instincts-consult with an attorney if you're shocked at the distribution of the estate.

3.) The estate is being rapidly consumed. This is often referred to as "waste." If the assets of the estate are quickly dwindling, you may want to discuss the situation with an attorney. It may be that assets of the estate are simply being used inappropriately, by either the family or the administrator. It could be that the assets are being spent to deal with creditors and other issues that have arisen due to mismanagement of the estate. Sometimes, people think that taking money or property from the estate doesn't matter now if they are going to inherit it later. Alternatively, people who feel that they haven't been treated fairly may take property of the estate with blatant disregard of the estate documents. If the assets of the estate seem to be evaporating, act now and speak to an estate litigation attorney.

4.) The estate is heavily burdened with debt. Another troubling sign is if you are surprised to discover that the deceased was deeply in debt. It could be that someone has been using the deceased's assets in order to secure financing. It could also be a sign of elder abuse, where a caregiver or family member had gained control of the deceased's assets and spent all the money or sold the assets for his or her own personal gain. It also may indicate that the trustee or administrator has neglected the financial obligations of the estate, resulting in financial losses, unpaid taxes, and other financial obligations that need to be addressed.

5.) Someone other than the administrator or trustee has control of the estate. This can be a very serious issue, as the estate documents specify who should take control of the estate once the deceased has passed. This sometimes happens because the person who is supposed to take control is unwilling or unable to, and the person now in charge is just trying to be helpful. On the other hand, it sometimes happens because the person taking charge wants to control the estate to his or her own personal benefit. It's also important to note that the person controlling the estate may not be doing so overtly; he or she may be exerting unseen influence over the named administrator from behind the scenes.

We want to emphasize that these signs are not proof that something illegal or inappropriate is taking place with your case. Estate cases can be very complicated, and you may not have all of the facts. Speaking with an attorney can help you understand your case and assess whether you really should be worried. If there is cause for concern, an experienced estate litigation attorney can help you get the answers you need.

Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with an Estate Litigation Lawyer in Santa Clara

At Hackard Law understand that it's not easy to consider litigation over the estate of a loved one, but we also know that this is an important decision. Our attorneys are experienced estate litigators, and our clients receive high quality, high-value representation. If you have questions concerning your rights in an estate case, email us or call (916) 313-3030 from Santa Clara or (213) 357-5200 from Los Angeles to schedule your free consultation. We serve clients everywhere in California.

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