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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

St Paul Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Parents embroiled in fight over child's estate

Unfortunately, not every estate is settled peacefully in Minnesota. There are many times when an heir does not agree with the settlement and feels it wasn't fair. These situations are emotional and complicated and can lead to probate litigation. In a recent case, parents are fighting with each other over their son's estate.

The death of a child is an unimaginable situation for parents. When there is a dispute surrounding the child's estate, it can be an even more tragic event. The parents of a Milwaukee area man are fighting over the man's estate. The 25-year-old man died while at a mental health facility. His estate received a $1.4 million settlement because of his death. The settlement would typically go to his parents since he did not have a spouse or a will at the time of his death. But, his mother is arguing that she was raped by the man's father, who had little to do with his son. She believes the father should not receive any of the money from the estate. The father has denied these allegations.

Should you challenge your loved one’s will?

If your loved one died in Minnesota leaving a Last Will and Testament, you may have felt shocked when you discovered the provisions of that will. You may not have inherited the things or amount to which you feel you are entitled. Before you mount an official will challenge, however, you should carefully consider a variety of things.

To begin with, your dismay over your loved one’s distribution of his or her assets is not sufficient grounds. The property belonged to him or her and (s)he had the right to distribute it as (s)he saw fit. In addition, you must have standing to challenge the will; i.e., you must be a close family member of the decedent with a right of inheritance had (s)he died without leaving a will.

We can help with business succession disputes

Many Minnesota residents own their own business. Small businesses make up an important part of the Minnesota economy. While some businesses have been in the same family for generations, every small business owner works hard to ensure their business succeeds. When it comes time for the business to pass to the next generation, probate litigation can arise.

A family business is formed by hard work and lots of time. Many who own their own business want it to succeed for generations to come. Even if there was careful planning with business succession, problems can still arise. Our law firm understands the issues that may surround the inheritance of a family business.

Stan Lee's elder abuse trauma

Elder abuse is a serious issue in Minnesota and across the United States. Undue influence in estates is a subject that many families have had to face. When an elderly loved one and their estate is taken advantage of and manipulated it can be a devastating situation.

Stan Lee, the former head of Marvel Comics and creator of several popular comics including Spider-Man and the Hulk, has been in the news lately because of alleged financial elder abuse. The 95-year-old who lives in Los Angeles has been embroiled in financial turmoil and elder abuse allegations ever since his wife died last year. His friends and colleagues say that he has been surrounded by people with unclear intentions and a court has placed him under temporary guardianship of an attorney. A man who claims to be Mr. Lee's manager and caretaker has been arrested and a restraining order has been placed against him. In addition to his manager, his daughter is also trying to gain access to Mr. Lee's assets.

Why do inheritance disputes occur?

No matter how well a Minnesotan may plan, an inheritance dispute can occur to just about anyone. Even the best laid out plan can fail. These disputes are emotional and can result in families broken apart forever.

Even if there is very little money involved in an inheritance, someone may feel like there is a problem with the inheritance process. One common dispute is when someone feels like they should not have been left out of a will. This can happen if an estate plan was not kept current or if there were family circumstances that had changed. These may include births, divorces, marriages, deaths, etc. The dispute can also be the result of poor communication among family members. Another cause of an inheritance dispute is when one inheritance recipient believes they did not receive their fair share. One person may feel like they did not receive what they were entitled to receive after helping more with a parent at the end of their life. A child may have received a significant loan from a parent that had not been re-payed. In these situations an individual may feel like they are not being treated fairly, fueling a disagreement.

Leaving an unequal inheritance to the children

Inheritance is a tense subject for many Minnesota families. Children often have different ideas of what they will be receiving from their parents than what their parents have intended. Many times, parents wish to leave their children uneven amounts of their inheritance.

If parents wish to leave an unequal estate plan to their children they should understand that there is the possibility of it causing problems. There are a few unique situations in which leaving an unequal inheritance makes sense. One instance is in the case where there is a family business. One child may be left the entire business while the other children may have the other assets divided equally among them. Another occasion would be if one of the children had been a primary caregiver for a parent. The child may have put their lives on hold to care for their parent and giving more to that caregiver can make sense. Typically children with disabilities are set up with a trust that controls the child's money and allows them to qualify for Medicaid. Other siblings are typically okay with an uneven distribution in this case, as they won't feel the pressure to financially support them.

Preventing elderly financial abuse

Elderly financial abuse is common and fraud or undue influence can seriously affect a person's financial affairs. It seems as if there are news story about an elderly person who has been taken advantage of quite frequently. Even if a family thinks it will never happen to their loved one, you just never know.

Although anyone can be a victim of elderly financial abuse, there are certain things a family can do to help prevent it from occurring. First, a person should shred old receipts, bank statements, investment statements, and unused credit card offers. If other people will be in the home, like workers or strangers, checkbooks and financial statements should be locked up or put out of sight.

Mistakes made in your will can lead to beneficiary disputes

You want your beneficiaries to be happy with whatever they inherit after you are gone. You, therefore, take time to work out who is going to get what and make the appropriate provisions in your will.

In so doing, you must be careful not to make errors that could result in disgruntled heirs who could end up arguing with each other over their inheritance, or lack thereof. With that in mind, here are three common mistakes to avoid:

Psychological aspects of probate litigation

Probate dispute attorneys in Minnesota understand that probate litigation not only has financial consequences, but can also have psychological consequences for those who are involved as well. A will or trust can often lead to many emotional fallouts for families.

The emotional weight of an inheritance can be hard for individuals to receive. Children may already be grieving the loss of their parent, and the additional stress of the inheritance can be great. When there is an estate dispute, especially among siblings, it can be an emotional affair. Sibling rivalries can be reawakened with arguments over who receives which item. One may think they deserve more than the other recipients based on the care they gave to the benefactor. This can lead to frustration and bitterness among beneficiaries because of perceived shortcomings with what they receive.

What is a trustee's fiduciary duty?

When a person in Minnesota sets up a trust, they will name a certain individual as the trustee. This is an important role that comes with significant responsibilities. Most trustees want to properly fulfill their role as trustee, including the fiduciary duty they have to the trust beneficiaries.

Having a fiduciary duty when it comes to trust administration means the trustee is legally in control of the trust assets, but the beneficiaries still retain equitable title to the trust assets. Per the trustee's fiduciary duty, the trustee is obligated to handle the trust assets in a manner that serves the best interests of the beneficiaries. Therefore, it is important to understand what a fiduciary duty is.

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