Probate, Will and Trust Disputes In Arizona

Common Issues That Result in Probate, Will and Trust Disputes in Arizona

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The time following the death of a loved one is very difficult. Long-standing issues of sibling rivalry, favoritism, jealousy and other areas of family discord can quickly come to a head during the mourning process. It does not help when questions about distribution of the estate arise and the

one person who knows the answers is no longer around. Unfortunately, litigation between family members is not uncommon.

What matters most

It may surprise many Arizona residents that money is not often the biggest issue when estate planning matters are taken to court. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal revealed that Americans of the baby boomer generation and older care much less about financial inheritances than they do about tangible personal items such as the following:

  • Heirlooms
  • Personal keepsakes
  • Family stories and histories
  • Mementos of low monetary value

Most aging Arizonans are less eager to receive financial assets than items of sentimental or emotional significance. In addition, with the rising cost of long-term healthcare in conjunction with the slow economy, many do not expect to leave much of a financial legacy for their families.

Feuding families

For many heirs, monetary assets are easy to understand and divide. However, heated family disputes can arise over pieces of grandmother’s jewelry, dad’s favorite painting and shared ownership of a family property. Blended families – caused by divorces and remarriages – create situations where stepsiblings and stepparents squabble over personal belongings from the shared home. If a loved one failed to write down who was to receive which item, cherished family mementoes may disappear.

Disputing family members may seek relief through litigation if they mistrust the executor or successor trustee – the person or people entrusted to distribute the estate to surviving family. If that person commits fraud or fails to execute the necessary paperwork correctly, the wronged heirs can seek legal recourse.

Additionally, during the probate or trust administration process, recent or unusual changes to a person’s will or other estate planning documents can raise red flags, indicating something is not quite right. There may be a concern that an aging parent was no longer thinking clearly and a caretaker or favored relative exercised undue influence during a weak moment. Such issues can give rise to will contests and other legal disputes.

A lawyer can help

If you are facing a family disagreement during the probate process or the administration of a trust – or if you wish to avert such issues – consult an experienced estate planning lawyer or one familiar with probate litigation. An attorney experienced with estate planning matters or civil lawsuits can help you avoid these sticky situations and clear up those that arise.