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Probate

Probate Litigation

Probate is the legal process by which a Court enables a deceased person’s estate to be administered and distributed to their beneficiaries or heirs. It involves validating the decedent’s will (if they had one), identifying the decedent’s beneficiaries or heirs, identifying and having the deceased person’s assets appraised, paying the decedent’s debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the rightful beneficiaries or heirs after payment of Court approved estate administration professional fees and costs. Due to how involved this stage of enacting a will is, it doesn’t always progress smoothly. This is where estate litigation starts, as it helps to settle inheritance disputes.

Estate litigation occurs whenever disagreements, disputes, or challenges regarding any aspect of the probate process occurs. Whenever a family settles the affairs of a deceased loved one, there are numerous possibilities that can create estate disputes. Heirs may argue over the disposition of the deceased person’s estate assets. A family member may find themselves at odds with the estate’s executor or administrator.

If your inheritance is at risk, you need the help of an experienced probate litigation lawyer. Our Southern California probate litigation team’s training and experience in estate planning, wills, trusts, and civil litigation law, coupled with their courtroom skills and experience are used to meet our clients’ probate and trust litigation needs.

Probate | Sandoval Legacy Group

Is a Probate Litigation Attorney Necessary?

Disagreements can arise as an executor or administrator settles the affairs of a deceased loved one’s estate. Beneficiaries or heirs may contest the ownership or sale of estate real property or personal property like stocks, cash, jewelry, artwork, vehicles, and furniture. Not only do disputes like these slow down the probate process and prevent your family from receiving their inheritance, but they can also affect long-term relationships. Therefore, having the proper legal guidance will be essential to settling disagreements quickly and fairly for everyone involved. The Sandoval Legacy Group’s probate litigation attorney team assists clients throughout California from offices in Orange, Riverside, Los Angeles, and San Diego counties with the following probate and trust matters:

Contesting a Will. State law allows interested parties to contest a will in California by objecting to an executor’s petition to probate a decedent’s will immediately following the decedent’s death. A will may be contested within 120 days of the hearing date if an order to probate the deceased’s person’s estate has already occurred. Following such a petition, other parties such as potential beneficiaries, heirs, estate creditors may file their own petitions which must state facts in support of opposing the will.  There is a high burden of proof associated with challenging a will because the will is presumed to be valid.

Contesting a Trust. Typically, trusts are used as a method to transfer one’s assets to the next generation or to a charity or other organization without needing a to file a probate action. A trust contest is initiated with a petition filed in probate court that states the reasons and supporting facts for challenging trust and specifies what relief the contesting person wants the probate court to order.

Reasons for Challenging The Validity of a Will or Trust?

While a probate litigation attorney can assist a trustee, executor, administrator, beneficiary, or heir to resolve disputes regarding a beloved’s trust or will, one cannot simply challenge a will or trust because its terms are unfavorable to them. There are several legally valid reasons you could contest the will or trust of your family member, and each one has its own criteria you need to meet.

A probate litigation attorney can assist you in drafting a petition to challenge the validity of a will or trust on a variety of grounds supported by the facts of a given situation. Potential grounds for challenging the validity of a will or trust include:

False Statements

A beneficiary, heir, or interested party can challenge the validity of a trust or will if it can be proven that the terms of a beneficial gift were based upon false statements that the trustor or testator believed and acted upon in the drafting of their trust or will. Gathering this evidence requires the skill of an experience probate litigation attorney in the taking of depositions, interrogatories, witness interview, subpoenaed documents, expert witnesses, and evidence presented at trial.

 

Undue influence/ Elder abuse

In some cases, it may be appropriate to question changes to a will or trust established late in a person’s life, particularly if those changes unduly benefit someone who is unrelated, recently served as a the person’s caregiver, or became involved in the person’s financial affairs towards the end of life.  “Undue influence” occurs when someone persuades an elderly or infirm person to give them money, real property, or other property against their free will. If a will is written under duress, such as by threats or injury, a probate court can order that it is invalid. A probate litigation attorney can effectively use California elder abuse laws to ensure that a decedent’s assets pass to their rightful heirs.

Incapacity

A will or trust may be invalidated if the testator or trustee was unable to understand the consequences of their asset gifting decisions when the document was drafted or amended. Evidence of the testator’s or trustee’s senility, dementia, or taking of certain medications when the document is signed are presented at trial.

Technical error

A valid will or trust must be properly signed and witnessed to be valid. If a person who contests a will or trust proves that a testator or trustor failed to comply with these mandatory requirements when the document was signed and/or witnessed, then the party who presents a will or trust to the probate court  must establish by clear and convincing evidence that the deceased testator or trustor intended the document as their  will or trust

Breach of fiduciary responsibility/Abusive fiduciary.

Executors, administrators, trustees, and conservators all fiduciaries who are held to strict guidelines under California law regarding their legal responsibilities and permissible actions. Fiduciaries are held financially responsible by these laws if they steal from estates, improperly sell or distribute estate assets, or fail to properly account for the collection or expenditure of estate assets without a written waiver of accounting from all estate beneficiaries and heirs. Our experienced probate litigation attorneys can quickly identify a fiduciary’s potential or actual breaches of fiduciary duties and draft a petition to hold a fiduciary liable for their misconduct in the administration of a decedent’s estate or trust estate.

Our Probate Litigation Attorneys Can Help You

When a dispute over a decedent’s estate or trust estate arises, our knowledgeable probate litigation attorneys can guide you through the litigation process and assist you in developing an appropriate strategy to resolve existing issues. They can also help protect your rights and ensure that you obtain the best possible outcome. Our professionals approach every case with a keen eye and understanding of your situation. We take the time to learn the ins and outs of your dispute and develop a personalized course of action that maximizes your chances of success.

Experienced probate litigation attorneys differ from estate planning attorneys. Despite the latter’s expertise in the drafting, administration, and termination of estate plans, wills, and trusts, they often do not handle probate litigation matters in court. A probate litigation lawyer is a civil trial attorney with knowledge and experience in the drafting, administration, and termination of California estate plans, wills, and trusts and the judicial process involved in disputing a will or trust or challenging whether a fiduciary has complied with their fiduciary duties during the administration of a decedent’s estate or trust estate.

Overall, probate litigation lawyers are skilled legal professionals who can navigate the complexities of California probate law and represent your interests in estate-related disputes. The education, skills and experience of our probate litigation attorney’s will help ensure your rights are fully protected and that the process of estate administration is conducted fairly and lawfully.

In addition to contesting a will or trust, there are other ways in which our probate litigation attorneys can assist you including:

Defending a Will:

If you are the executor, administrator, beneficiary of a will that is being contested, our probate litigation lawyers can help you defend the validity of the will. They will gather evidence and present written and oral arguments to the probate court on your behalf to protect the interests of the estate and the decedent’s wishes.

Resolving Estate Disputes:

Our probate litigation lawyers can assist you to resolving various types of estate disputes against a decedent’s estate or trust estate, such as those over the distribution of estate assets, creditor’s claims against an estate, disagreements among beneficiaries, or allegations of an administrator’s, executor’s or trustee’s alleged breaches of fiduciary duties. Our attorneys will negotiate on your behalf, explore settlement options, and, if necessary, represent you in probate court.

Interpreting Complex Wills and Trusts:

Some wills and trusts are be complex and lead to confusion or disputes among beneficiaries or heirs. Our probate litigation lawyers will analyze the terms of these documents, provide a legal interpretation of those terms, and provide guidance regarding the proper administration of the decedent’s estate or trust estate and distribution of estate assets.

Handling Estate Administration Issues:

As an executor or administrator of a decedent’s will or estate trustee, should you encounter challenges during the administration process, our probate litigation lawyers will counsel you about your fiduciary duties and the proper administration of the decedent’s estate or trust estate and provided legal representation. They will assist with required administrative tasks such as gathering and valuing assets, paying debts, preparing and filing appropriate income and gift tax returns, estate asset distribution and resolving disputes that mayarise.

Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution:

Sandoval Legacy Group’s team can also act as mediators for resolving disputes associated with your will or trust. Our probate litigation lawyers are experienced in alternative dispute resolution methods which include mediation and arbitration. They can help you explore these options which often lead to a more cost-effective, less adversarial and quicker resolution of estate disputes outside of court so that trial is avoided.

Providing Legal Advice and Guidance:

We can also provide useful direction when it comes to learning more about your responsibilities in relation to a will or trust. If you are not currently involved in an estate dispute, our probate litigation lawyers can provide you valuable advice and guidance to help you understand your rights and obligations – as an executor, administrator, trustee, beneficiary or heir under California probate law. They can also discuss the many benefits of planning your estate documents to help you and your loved ones minimize the potential for estate disputes in the future.

Is your Southern California Probate Litigation Case in Need of an Attorney?

Sandoval Legacy Group specializes in the drafting and administration of comprehensive, easy to understand, estate plans, wills, trusts, and probate litigation. law. If you are involved in litigation over a decedent’s estate or trust estate, our firm can assist you to obtain the best possible results.  Our California probate litigation attorneys possess the necessary probate courtroom experience and skills you need and want to assist with your decedent’s estate, trust estate and beneficiary inheritance litigation

California probate litigation cases are filed, and matters heard and tried in probate courts located in the county where the decedent resided or owned real property. Our probate litigation lawyers are familiar with local probate courtroom procedures to ensure the proper handling of your probate litigation case. If you need assistance to dispute  a will or trust in Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego or Los Angeles counties, contact us today.

Contact Us for Personalized Estate Planning in Southern California

We understand that discussing end-of-life plans is difficult, so we approach this delicate conversation with respect and dignity. Our estate planning services cover all areas of elder law, probate and trust law, based upon your specific financial and health situations. We welcome the opportunity to discuss your estate planning questions and concerns and to help demystify your understanding of probate, special needs planning and elder law. Attorney Dennis M. Sandoval and the Sandoval Legacy Group team are ready to assist you.

Southern California’s Premier Estate Planning and Probate Litigation Law Firm

Sandoval Legacy Group has over thirty years of experience serving thousands of Southern Californians with their individualized estate planning needs. You deserve the the best legal minds to guide you through this process. The trusted estate planning lawyers at Sandoval Legacy Group, a division of Holstrom Block & Parke, a Professional Law Corporation, have offices throughout Southern California in Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Los Angeles counties. Contact us online or call (888) 502-2881 to schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss your questions and concerns about your estate planning need, special needs planning, advanced tax planning, elder law, probate and trust.

 

Download Our Free Comprehensive Probate 101 eBook:

What is covered:

  • The basic facts of the Probate Process and how to use it
  • The steps and costs to administer a Probate Case
  • Using an attorney
  • The role of the person in charge of the Probate … and if they need insurance to protect themselves
  • The bills, taxes, and debts of a deceased person
  • Assets and how to divide them
  • Heirs, Inheritance, and Property Taxes
  • If the deceased person’s affairs remain private or go public
  • If court proceedings are necessary
  • Probate Process Timeline/Flow Chart

To speak with one of our highly skilled probate attorneys in Riverside County, Orange County, San Diego County, San Bernardino, or Los Angeles county, contact us today or call Sandoval Legacy Group at (888) 502-2881

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With office locations throughout Southern California, Sandoval Legacy Group, a division of Holstrom, Block & Parke, offers comprehensive and personalized estate planning, special needs planning, trust administration, probate, and conservatorships expert services in Riverside County, San Bernardino County, Orange County, San Diego County, and Los Angeles County.

Why Choose Us?

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Estate Planning

A comprehensive approach to estate planning that preserves your family’s legacy and wealth based on your individual circumstances.

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Elder Law

Prepare for the unexpected by obtaining a medical power of attorney, healthcare directives, and eldercare options.

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Probate

Please contact us if you need representation in probate court, or if you wish to avoid probate court altogether. Incorporating probate avoidance strategies into your overall estate plan is one of the greatest gifts you can leave your loved ones.

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Special Needs Trusts

In addition to being members of the Special Needs Alliance and the Academy of Special Needs Planners, our law firm can also advise you regarding the intricacies of administering a Special Needs Trust.

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