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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

St Paul Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

What rights do beneficiaries have?

When a person has been named a beneficiary of a loved one's estate in Minnesota, it is often viewed as a special gift. Most of the time, disbursements of assets to beneficiaries occur without incidence, but sometimes beneficiaries may wonder if they have any rights. Executors of an estate do have certain obligations to its beneficiaries.

A beneficiary should expect that they will be provided with information. The information usually includes enough information to enforce their rights. It can include what assets the estate holds, how much debt the estate contains and what assets are being sold to pay that debt. A beneficiary should also expect they will receive timely distribution from the estate. Beneficiaries also have the right to dismiss and replace the executor. There are grounds that need to be met for a dismissal that may include theft, inability to manage the estate or breach of fiduciary duties.

Substance abuse can affect a person's estate

Despite how hard families may try, no Minnesota family is perfect. This can make for difficult estate planning for families who have issues in their family. Most parents want to give their children equal share of their estate, but when substance abuse is present it can lead to complications and probate litigation.

Having a child with a substance abuse is a heartbreaking situation for families. When it comes to estate planning, alcohol or drug abuse can cause problems. If a family makes the decision to not give the substance abuser any part of their estate, it can result in a will contest. Another problem that can occur is if parents leave the substance abuser's share of the estate to another sibling to disperse. This can also lead to many problems that may include creditor's taking the money that's designated for the substance abuser child to a divorce affecting the disbursement.

James Brown's estate still not settled 12 years after his death

When a person dies it can be an emotional time for a family. Many people have taken the time to create an estate plan to help establish where their assets will go after they pass. But sometimes things don't go as planned and a will or trust is contested. Or a person dies without an estate plan and a family has disagreements as to what should happen to the assets. Legal disputes are still occurring for the estate of musician James Brown over 12 years after his death.

Soul musician, James Brown, passed away on Christmas Day in 2006, leaving behind millions of dollars in assets and a prolific music catalog. His family is still disputing his estate. One of the main disputes is whether Mr. Brown had a surviving spouse at the time of his death. He had married Tomi Rae Hynie in 2001, but she may have still been married at the time to another man. If this is the case, her marriage to Mr. Brown is not legal under South Carolina law. But, the man she may have been married to also appears to have been married to three other women in Pakistan, although this has not been proven. Because of the validity of the marriage to Mr. Brown, his estate is still in limbo. In addition, his will was written before his marriage to Hynie and does not include her. She has claimed an elective share of 1/3 of his estate. His children and grandchildren are disputing her claims and any settlement that includes her. The South Carolina Court of Appeals has found her to be the valid spouse but it is expected that the heirs will take this to the South Carolina Supreme Court. In addition, some of his children dispute the paternity of James Brown II and whether he really is the son of James Brown. The heirs of his estate are also in court in California over who will have control over his vast music catalog.

Common reasons for a will contest

Many families in Minnesota have created a will to transfer their assets to their children upon their death. A will is a wonderful way to ensure a person's assets are distributed in the way in which they intend. Usually a will passes through probate without any issues, but occasionally a will contest occurs with an inheritance.

There are several reasons why a will contest may occur. One reason why there is a will contest is if the will itself cannot be located. Another major reason is that an heir does not receive what they expected. They may have been disinherited or they may not have received as much as they thought they were going to. Or a person may challenge a will because they don't think the person who created it had the mental capacity. Another reason for a challenge is if someone believes there was undue influence from someone who received benefits from the will at the exclusion of other heirs.

3 signs your parent is a victim of undue influence

If you have an aging parent, you may have questions and concerns about what will happen to his or her estate. You may especially have worries if you suspect someone is manipulating your parent. The person you think may be exploiting your parent may be a romantic interest, family member or friend.

Someone your parent loves and trusts may use that power to unfairly influence the estate plan. If you think your mom or dad is the victim of pressure or persuasion to do something that is not in his or her best interests, you may need to take legal action. To help you determine whether there is something fishy going on, here are some warning signs of undue influence

Is there a trust dispute in your family?

No matter how well planned a Minnesota resident's estate plan is, there can still be disputes among family members. There are many Minnesota residents who have created a trust. But, there are times when these trusts result in a dispute.

A trust dispute is different from a probate dispute as it usually doesn't involve the courts. Although probate disputes and trust disputes involve questions of inheritances, perhaps undue influence, and other similar grounds for a challenge, probate disputes involve the court. Trust litigation can be complicated and those who are looking to dispute the provisions of a trust may want to speak with a legal professional.

Ways to avoid elder financial abuse

The population of aging Minnesotans is growing, and along with an aging population comes the worry of abuse. There are many unsavory people out there who prey on older Minnesotans. Elder financial abuse continues to be a major problem but there are ways for families to avoid abuse.

It is estimated that up to 10 percent of senior citizens will be the victim of financial abuse. One way to help a loved one not become a victim of abuse is to communicate with them on a consistent basis. It is important to check on their health and activities, along with their spending habits. Continue to remind them to shred receipts, bills and account statements and to not open unknown emails, give out their Social Security Number, etc. If a loved one hires outside help, it can be helpful to be involved in the process.

When there are questions regarding the executor of an estate

There are many times when Minnesota siblings disagree over a parent's estate. Working out estate matters can be complicated, especially if siblings disagree. When there are inheritance disagreements, it can be stressful, emotional and ultimately, no one wins.

If siblings have a problem with how their parent's estate is being handled, it should be addressed as soon as possible. Some scenarios that cause issues is when one sibling received more of the estate than another. Parents may set up their estate in a way where one sibling receives everything on the premise that they distribute it amongst the other siblings upon their death. Or a sibling has undue influence over their parents and has convinced them to give him a bigger share of the estate.

Sibling disputes regarding power of attorney

Specifying a Minnesota power of attorney is one of the most important estate planning activities a person should do. A power of attorney has the job because it allows someone the ability to act on behalf of an incapacitated or deceased person. There is either a medical power of attorney who is charge of a person's medical treatments or a financial power of attorney who has financial power, including opening and closing bank accounts, paying bills, cashing checks, etc. Both of these tasks require the power of attorney to act on the best interest of their principal.

When a parent names one of their children to be their power of attorney, it can cause problems among the other children who may feel left out. Siblings may feel distrust among the other siblings, and they may also not agree with the choices that are made. There are certain things a family should know about a power of attorney designation.

Burden of proof in probate litigation

Probate litigation can become necessary in a variety of circumstances. If you find yourself needing to take action, such as challenging a will or any of its provisions, it can be helpful to understand some basics about how Minnesota courts tend to handle such disputes.

Generally, those who submit the will as valid under Minnesota law have the initial burden of proving its validity. The basic legal requirements state that a will must be in writing, signed by the testator and by two witnesses to the signing.

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