Estate Planning & Probate Litigation
07.08.2021 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.
Estate proceedings are typically not litigated. Sometimes, however, where there is a need for court oversight, for court approval, or for resolution of a contested dispute, they are. Such litigation matters fall into one of two “camps” depending on the decedent’s estate plan and assets: 1) a contested probate administration, or 2) a contested trust administration. Sometimes both are necessary.
The most common kinds of probate litigation involve:
- determining the validity of a Will
- interpreting ambiguous provisions of a Will
- determining who should serve as personal representative
- determining which assets are part of the estate and the value of them
- determining who inherits which assets
- determining an omitted spouse’s spousal rights
- determining creditor rights
Court involvement in trust administrations is usually unnecessary, but it is not uncommon to involve the court because a trust beneficiary contests certain provisions of the trust or feels that the trustee has abused his or her powers. It’s possible, too, that a trustee would seek the court’s approval of his or her trust accounting and proposal for distribution simply because the trustee wants a court order “blessing” his or her work as trustee. Such an order provides certainty and closure for the trustee.
Litigation in the estates and trusts arena—whether within a probate administration or a contested trust matter—is often lengthy and expensive, as is other litigation. In large part, litigation is lengthy and expensive because of the large volume of document review, the need to take witness depositions, the need to hire expert witnesses who can testify to a decedent’s capacity/incapacity to make a Will or other relevant topic, and the need to prepare for and attend trial.
Attorneys at Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd. plan to avoid contested matters where possible, but where estates and trusts litigation is a necessity, we work through the contest with our clients to achieve the very best result as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
Susan T. Peterson-Lerdahl is a shareholder in the Maple Grove, Minnesota Law Firm of Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd. She is Chair of the firm’s Estate Planning Department and has years of experience counseling individuals and families in estate planning, elder law, probate and trust administration as well as family business succession planning.