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 a conservatorship needs to be set up? And what happens if there’s a dispute? Will the court have the final say?
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 make sure your wishes are carried out 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 and will make sure your final wishes are met.
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. Litigation may be needed to sort out the dispute.
For example, upon your father’s death, two separate wills are found — 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 Probate Litigation is 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.
Some of the reasons why estate litigation may be necessary can be 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, as well as a finding as to who is entitled to benefit from it. Several types of scenarios may lead to a will contest. For example, a family finds that two conflicting wills were created by a deceased relative. 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 related to 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. All adults are presumed 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 for that person. The conservator can be responsible for handling medical decisions, financial decisions or both. Like a conservatorship, a guardianship is appointed 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.
Consult a Knowledgeable Estate Litigation Lawyer to Protect Your Family’s Future
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 can assist. We have helped numerous individuals throughout Tennessee and we are ready to help you. Our sensitive 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.