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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

St Paul Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Business succession issues and how we can help

There are many families in Minnesota that own their own business. These businesses have been in their family for generations or, maybe, they are a first-generation creation. Regardless, they are special for families and most want the business to remain in the family for many years to come. Most of the time, a business succession plan can accomplish these goals, but, occasionally, there are complications that arise.

There are certain situations when a business succession might not go as planned. One is a situation where one sibling expects to inherit the business because they have been working in it for years, while the other siblings disagree. Another situation is where non-family members may seek to obtain the business. Or, there can be taxes that may lead to the end of the business upon the owner's death. Or, heirs and beneficiaries that receive the business may lack the skills necessary to run the business and keep it successful.

What to do if you do not want to be an executor of an estate

Choosing the executor of a will is a big decision to make. The person writing the will needs to select someone who is financially responsible and trustworthy. It can be difficult to find someone willing to take on such a responsibility, which is why the American Bar Association makes the case for hiring a paid executor. 

If someone asks you to be an executor, you should know how highly the person views you. It is truly an honor, but it does come with many responsibilities. Perhaps you do not have the time or energy to devote to being an executor. There is a process for removing yourself from that title, and you want to ensure you do everything accurately. 

Many probate disputes can be settled using mediation

When a loved one dies, they usually leave some assets for their heirs. Many times, these assets are addressed in a will or trust and the estate is settled. But, occasionally there is an estate dispute among the heirs and beneficiaries that needs to be addressed. In these emotional situations, mediation may be a good option.

When an estate is in dispute, it can be a stressful situation for everyone involved. These situations can affect families for generations. Having an attorney who specializes in probate litigation can help a family through their disagreements. Mediation is often a good option for these families. One way that mediation can help is by getting the disagreeing parties together in a way where everyone's concerns are heard. It can help reduce the cost for the litigation along with time and emotional trauma.

An estate with many beneficiaries can be complicated

When a person sets up their estate plan, they usually name beneficiaries. Beneficiaries can be anyone but are usually close family members. However, when a person doesn't have a family to leave their assets to, they can name organizations and friends as beneficiaries. In the case of 'Frasier' dad, John Mahoney, there were dozens of beneficiaries named.

The dad in the hit TV show 'Fraser' died in February. His estate is worth more than $5 million and there appear to be at least 38 beneficiaries. John Mahoney never married and didn't have children but left his estate to his extended family and friends. With such a long list of beneficiaries, the probate process can become complicated. Before the assets are distributed, the estate's debts need to be covered, including funeral costs. Beneficiaries may also be asked to sign a statement saying they accept the amount they receive, which can protect the executor in the future against claims that a beneficiary did not receive the right amount of assets.

Money missing from an estate may be a common occurrence

Many Minnesota residents work hard to earn their money and leave a legacy for generations to come. Most of the time, this money is passed to the next generation without incident. But, occasionally, money goes missing, leaving families wondering what happened.

Who can challenge a will?

Not everyone can contest a will and it cannot be contested in all circumstances. If you want to contest a will, it is helpful to know who can contest it and when it can be contested. Because the laws concerning probate litigation can be complex and technical, it is helpful to be familiar with them. According to probate laws, only those who have an interest in the will can challenge it for valid legal reasons. Interested persons generally include children, heirs, devisees, spouses, creditors and others who may have a property right or claim against the estate.

There are generally three categories of people who can challenge a will: beneficiaries of a prior will, if there is a claim of multiple wills; beneficiaries of a subsequent will, if there is a claim of multiple wills; and those who claim there were intestate errors. The first consideration to evaluate when considering a will contest is if the party contesting the will has standing. To have standing to contest a will, the individual must be someone named on the face of the will, a beneficiary, or an individual who is not a beneficiary but who would inherit if the will were deemed invalid.

How to disclaim an inheritance

Most of the time when a Minnesotan receives an inheritance they are happy and grateful for it. But, occasionally a person does not want to accept an inheritance. Is it possible, then, to disclaim an inheritance?

There are circumstances where a person may not want to accept an inheritance. They may disclaim an inheritance for tax purposes or they may want to prevent a creditor from making a claim. They may also want to take advantage of marital deductions and will want to disclaim the inheritance.

Can you contest an insurance beneficiary?

You may recognize that retirement plans and insurance policies do not receive quite the same treatment as wills when someone dies. In fact, while a will may have to go through probate, an insurance policy or retirement plan might avoid court scrutiny.

If you are in a situation where you believe that your loved one had outdated or wrong beneficiaries on the policy, is it possible for you to contest the beneficiaries? The answer is that in some situations, it is possible, but you will likely have to go through mediation, arbitration or court. Something such as writing to the insurance company and explaining the situation is insufficient.

Why would a trustee not make a distribution?

When a family sets up a trust for their children or grandchildren, they include terms for distribution of assets. A trustee is a person who in charge of the trust and the distribution of assets. But, there are times when a trustee does not make a distribution according to the terms of the trust.

There are a number of reasons why a trustee will not make a distribution to the heirs and beneficiaries. Many times, it is because the trustee does not understand the terms of the trust. They may recall a conversation they had with the trust's creator in which they remember something different than what the trust says. Or, a trustee just doesn't take the time to learn about the trust, their duties, and making the distribution. Another reason they are not distributing assets would be that the trustee is misusing the trust's funds and is trying to cover up their actions. They may be taking trust assets for their own use.

Man's body exhumed because of will dispute

When a person creates a will, they expect it will be followed upon their death. Most of the time this is the case, but, occasionally, a will contest occurs and probate litigation becomes necessary. A more extreme case of this occurred recently.

An odd case has recently emerged in a fake will case. A man died in a car accident in 2015. His son and brother searched his home for his will but could not find the document. The man's girlfriend's mother came forward saying she had the document. She gave it to an attorney and did not show the man's family. It was later determined that she had created the document six days after the man died. The falsified document had left the majority of the man's large estate, estimated to be worth $1.7 million, to the girlfriend instead of to his son. The girlfriend and her mother have been charged with wire fraud and lying to the FBI. A judge has also ordered the man's body be exhumed to confirm the cause of death.

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