Careful planning and preparation are essential to ensuring your property will be distributed according to your wishes. But who will be responsible for the administration of your estate? What if you need to set up a conservatorship? And what happens if there’s a dispute? Will the court have the final say? A probate litigation lawyer can help with all of these issues.
It’s important to have the proper administrator in place when planning out your will. You need to have the right representative in place who will carry out your wishes to the fullest extent.
Partner Jennifer Sheppard and the probate litigation lawyers at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC are skilled at executing the documents needed by those living in Nashville or elsewhere in Tennessee. Not only will our team assist with the administration of an estate, but if a dispute arises, we can assist your loved ones through probate. We can serve as personal representatives, trustees, and executors during the process of probate administration to make sure the court meets your final wishes.
What is Probate Litigation?
Probate litigation occurs when a situation arises that requires involvement by the probate court in order to be resolved. After a loved one is gone, questions may arise about the estate. Some of the beneficiaries are concerned that something just isn’t right with the will or a trust. You may need litigation to sort out the dispute.
For example, upon your father’s death, you find two separate wills — one that states that your sister will inherit nothing while the second will says the opposite. In a case such as this, your sister may consider going to court to dispute the validity of the will.
When is Probate Litigation Necessary?
When someone contests or believes part of the estate is invalid – when it’s the will, a trust, or a conservatorship — litigation may be necessary to clarify the matter. That means you need a skilled trial lawyer who can fight for your rights in the courtroom. Not all estate lawyers have the trial experience necessary to take on these challenges. Fortunately, our estate litigation lawyers have spent years fighting for our clients’ rights throughout Tennessee.
Reasons Why Estate Litigation is Necessary
Some of the reasons why estate litigation may be necessary include the following:
Will Contests: One of the most common legal proceedings is a will contest. The purpose of a will contest is to obtain a legal ruling on whether the instrument is valid. This process starts with determining who should benefit from it. Several types of scenarios may lead to a will contest. For example, a family finds that the deceased relative created two conflicting wills. One family member is contending that the second will was created through undue influence, rendering it invalid. It is now up to the court to decide the legitimacy of the second will.
Trust Disputes: Legal action may also be required when trust assets are commingled with personal funds, or a trustee has not disclosed pertinent information. In these cases, the beneficiaries of a trust may request an “accounting” of the trust, which is a detailed description of transactions during a certain period. Litigation for trust accounts can be highly detailed and complex. The estate and probate litigation lawyers at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard have the skill and experience to keep your interests a priority when litigating these matters.
Medical/Financial Decision Disputes: We all want what is best for our loved ones. The court presumes that all adults are capable of making their own legal decisions, whether financial or medical. Powers of Attorney are helpful to direct who will make decisions should an adult be unable to make their own decisions. It is important to note that a power of attorney merely allows a third party to make decisions for an adult. However, when dementia or mental illness is present, it may be necessary to remove an adult’s decision-making powers with a conservatorship.
Conservatorships and Guardianships: What You Should Know
If you have a loved one who is disabled or an incapacitated adult, you may need legal authority to manage their affairs. The best solution is to go through a conservatorship – a legal proceeding where the court will appoint an individual or entity to be responsible for making the decisions that are in the best interest of that person.
The conservator can be responsible for handling medical decisions, financial decisions, or both. Like a conservatorship, the court appoints guardianship to an individual to either partially or fully supervise an individual under the age of 18. The appointed guardian can make parental decisions regarding the child, such as where he/she can go to school, health care issues, and what to do with the child’s property.
In Tennessee, there are alternatives to conservatorship when the individual’s capabilities vary. For less restrictive means to guide money management, a family may decide to utilize a joint bank account or representative payee. If an individual with intellectual disabilities can make decisions with support and assistance from a trusted family member, families may use supported decision-making to give the individual a sense of autonomy with added guidance. Families may also create special needs trusts to ensure their loved one is cared for.
Advantages of Conservatorships
A conservatorship comes with certain unique advantages, including:
With a conservatorship, you can make decisions for your loved ones. This gives other family members the assurance of knowing that the incapacitated individual is in good care.
A conservatorship also provides you with legal authority to deal with third parties (banks and similar financial institutions) on behalf of your loved one.
Conservatorships can require court approval, meaning the judge can approve certain vital decisions.
Establishing a conservatorship in Tennessee is no easy feat. Fortunately, a probate litigation attorney in Nashville can guide you through the process. Get in touch with a lawyer to start building your case today.
1. When Do I Need to Hire a Probate Litigation Attorney?
There are several instances where you may require the opinion of a qualified Nashville probate litigation attorney. A lawyer can help protect the estate and handle claims against it. They can also resolve associated legal and financial matters.
You should turn to a probate litigation lawyer for assistance in situations such as:
Someone contests the estate in some way. For example, there are disputes over the validity of certain assets.
Disgruntled family members are threatening a lawsuit.
You’re facing difficulties with the probate court.
There are financial problems, debts, or unfinished contracts within the estate.
2. Do I Need a Probate Litigation Attorney Near My Location?
Most probate litigation hearings happen in a county probate court. Hence, it’s best if you reach out to a local attorney with your case. A local probate lawyer will be more familiar with laws in the area and will be able to guide you in the right direction.
For example, if your probate case is based in Nashville, consider entrusting your case to a Nashville probate litigation lawyer. They’ll know what the probate examiners prefer, how the court posts probate notes, and how to clear them. This does not mean that a lawyer outside your immediate area can’t learn these things, but it will likely take them more time.
3. What Does a Probate Litigation Attorney Do?
Probate litigation lawyers step in when an issue with a trust or will leads to litigation. Their goal is to protect beneficiaries and ensure they receive their rightful inheritances.
When you hire a probate litigation attorney in Tennessee, you get the following benefits.
Efficient processes: Trying to settle a probate dispute can be incredibly complex and overwhelming. A lawyer can help you navigate the entire process, letting you know what to expect at each stage.
Mediating disputes: An attorney will handle family disputes with compassion and tact, resolving them as peacefully as possible.
Defending claims: Like most civil claims, probate litigation follows several legal rules and procedures. Any non-compliance can lead to immediate dismissal. A probate litigation lawyer will make sure your claims are represented appropriately.
Consult a Knowledgeable Estate Litigation Lawyer to Protect Your Family’s Future
Depending on your circumstances, a conservatorship could be a good decision for your family. But they can lead to disputes and controversies. Sometimes, the conservator’s decisions regarding medical treatment, visitation, and placement can cause a rift between family members. In other situations, the conservator themselves may exercise undue influence over the ward.
Whatever the case, you need a strong legal team in your corner to combat conservatorship and probate litigation issues. A seasoned probate litigation attorney in Tennessee will protect your rights and gather evidence to validate your claims. They’ll walk the extra mile to help you seek justice.
If you or someone you know needs legal advice regarding the administration of a trust or a probate matter, Attorney Jennifer Sheppard and the conservatorships and probate litigation lawyers at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC can assist. We have helped numerous individuals throughout Tennessee, and we are ready to help you. Our legal team stays updated on the latest developments and will work meticulously to pursue your goals. To speak with one of our attorneys, contact us online or call (615) 800-7096.