What do you do if your inheritance in a trust or will has been taken or is threatened by another family member? I’ll start with some guidance that I draw from my experience:
An estate planner is not an estate litigator. This conclusion needs some elaboration. There are some great estate litigators who are also great estate planners – but this is rare. The rigors, strategy and tactics of litigation are a somewhat uneven fit with the more evenly-paced practice of estate planning. The differences can be as dramatic as the style and comportment of a mediator from a prizefighter.
Get a second, maybe even a third opinion. We have seen meritorious and ultimately successful cases that were rejected by estate planners or other estate litigators. In the same way, we’re sure that another lawyer or law firm successfully resolved some of the cases that we didn’t take. And that is okay. We may have different views as to the viability of a case. Lawyers, like doctors, do not march in lockstep.
Take some time to understand your emotions. We understand that estate litigation is full of stresses – among them a sense of betrayal by other family members or even the deceased. Amidst this betrayal is a sense of guilt. “Am I greedy for even caring about this?” “I should be mourning but instead I’m angry.” “What is an estate dispute going to do to our family?” These emotions and feelings are worthy of reflection.
A lifetime of planning should not be overturned by the undue influence of a relative or other person who takes advantage of an ailing or already deceased person’s vulnerability. Nobody likes vultures. Sometimes the stresses and grief associated with a loved one’s passing causes people to do strange things. That’s okay. But what’s not okay is the failure to right wrongs that may have been committed under understandably difficult circumstances.
So if your “brother stole your mother’s house” or something similar, we are happy to listen to your story – and if appropriate – we work to right the wrong. Call us at 916 313-3030.