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Michigan Elder Law Today

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Four Reasons an Estate Can End Up in Litigation

Why does an estate end up in litigation and how can it be avoided?  

Preparing an estate plan is a vital legal milestone that can ultimately protect your assets from being whittled away in legal fees and court costs. Believe it or not, estate litigation cases are among the most common cases to appear in Michigan courtrooms. There were actually several thousand contested probate matters presented to the Michigan courts in 2013. The following are the top four reasons an estate can end up entangled in a lawsuit:

#4: Disinheritance:

Disinheriting a child is a dicey subject, but certainly understandable in certain circumstances. Many parents, for instance,  disinherit a child for whom they have adequately provided during their lifetime in order to leave a portion of their estate to charitable causes, preparing their children for this eventuality beforehand. In other cases, however, the disinheritance comes as a complete shock to the would-be heirs and may result in a lawsuit alleging undue influence or error in judgment.

To avoid the latter result, disinheritances must be spelled out in clear, concise, unambiguous language, without any possibility of being misconstrued. If this is done, even if the disinherited relative files suit anyway, the suit is unlikely to go far.

#3: Constant Amendments:

An estate plan can certainly be amended to reflect changes in the family dynamic. It should not, however, be updated every few months, since this may give surviving family members a cause to doubt competency. If you are considering changes to an existing estate plan, carefully consider the options and only make amendments that you are certain will be permanent.

#2: Perceived Undue Influence:

Undue influence is one of the most common claims in estate litigation, and it basically asserts that the deceased was improperly coerced to make estate plan changes in favor of a certain beneficiary. Oftentimes, the target of the undue influence claim is a child or relative who spent the most time with the deceased and/or offered regular assistance with daily tasks. If you would like to leave the bulk of your estate to a certain close relative, a competent attorney can ensure the bequests are properly drafted and there are no questions of mental competence at the time of execution.

#1: No Estate Plan at All:

Failure to make an estate plan can result in catastrophic family conflicts – particularly for non-immediate family members who were promised assets or heirlooms by the deceased during his or her lifetime. To avoid such unintended dissension, contact Andrew Byers, Attorney and Counselor at Law for skilled, knowledgeable assistance. Serving Detroit and surrounding regions of Michigan, we can be reached at: 248-301-1511 today. 


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Elder Law, Estate Planning, and Probate attorney Andrew Byers helps people in Troy, MI and throughout Oakland County, MI including Royal Oak, Clawson, Berkley, Huntington Woods, Rochester Hills, as well as throughout the metro Detroit area, including Macomb County and Wayne County, Michigan.



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