Dupage County Lawyers

Contested Estates And Estate Litigation

REAL PROBLEMS. REAL SOLUTIONS.

When someone dies, family members often wind up in conflict and fighting over things like estates, estate administration and probate matters. If the situation becomes contentious enough, family members may wind up in court challenging a will, trust, or other estate issue. Family feuds, misunderstandings, and just plain greed can create major problems with estate administration and lead to drawn-out court battles that wind up eating up the funds being fought over.

Anyone contesting a will, trust or estate must act quickly; once an estate reaches probate, you have limited time to assert your claim. The issues involved are sensitive, and making a mistake can be costly. If you find yourself dealing with any contested estate issues, you need the help of a seasoned family law attorney.

The experienced and compassionate DuPage County, Illinois, contested estate attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., know how stressful and difficult estate feuds can be. We provide dedicated representation on a full range of contested estate issues. Whether you have a dispute over the guardianship of a disabled adult or minor or the probate of a recently deceased loved one’s estate, we are here to provide creative solutions to your case.

We offer a free initial consultation to discuss your individual estate issues, so contact us today by calling or using our online contact form.

What Does “Estate” Mean?

An “estate” refers to all of the property that a person owns or controls, including:

  • Real property and the things attached to it such as houses and buildings
  • Personal property, including vehicles, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, cash, furniture, jewelry, and collectibles
  • Businesses and business inventory, including equipment and accounts receivable
  • Life insurance and annuity contracts, pension benefits, IRAs, etc.
  • Debts and obligations owed to others
  • Any claims owed by others

Contestable Issues

We provide guidance on the following common contestable estate issues:

  • Guardianship appointments
  • Guardianship estates for disabled adults and minors
  • Will contests based on grounds such as undue influence
  • Trust disputes and challenges
  • Distribution of assets, withholding assets, and family feuds involving personal property
  • Inheritances
  • Estate administration, breach of fiduciary duty, and contested claims against the estate
  • Probate disagreements among family members
  • Disputes involving joint tenancy accounts with rights of survivorship
  • Guardianship issues such as determining guardianship and handling of funds
  • Issues related to powers of attorney for health care or property

Contesting an Estate

To challenge a will or trust successfully, the contesting party must prove one of the following:

1) Undue Influence — that the will or trust was a product of undue influence by another party. For example, when one sibling threatens to place a parent in a home unless granted a large share of the estate.
2) Incompetence — that the individual making the will or trust was not of sound mind or legally competent at the time of drafting and thus didn’t understand what was being done.
3) Fraud — that the document was forged, rooted in fraud, or based on lies or deception.

4) Ambiguous language – that the documents are not written clearly, are confusing, or can be interpreted in different ways.

In addition, problems leading to an estate contest may occur if there are claims on the estate from creditors, if there are accusations of wrongdoing by the executor, or if there is no will and there is a problem proving or finding the identity of the heirs under state law.

Probate

When estates are contested in Illinois, the estates may have to go through probate.  This is a court-supervised legal procedure to make it clear who inherits the property and to make sure valid debts and taxes are paid.

In probate, the deceased person’s executor must prove that the will is valid, identify and inventory assets and have them appraised, pay debts and taxes, and distribute the remaining property as the will or law directs. Supervised probate administration may be ordered if heirs are fighting in court.

Contesting an estate extends the time it will take to settle. In Illinois, estates under $500,000 normally take one to two years to settle prior to a trial. If a probate estate is involved in litigation, it may take two to three years or more to settle.

The time to settle probate litigation may take longer for reasons that include:

    • Stubbornness or lack of transparency of the parties involved
    • Complex assets and issues
    • A large number of contesting parties
    • The brokenness in family relationships

    Expensive and time-consuming litigation can sometimes be avoided if the parties and their attorneys are willing to communicate regarding their issues related to the estate and work together and compromise before going to court.

    Contact Us for all Estate Issues

    Estate-planning lawsuits often involve complex legal arguments and contentious disagreements. Whether you are trying to challenge the validity of a will or trust or are defending against attack from others, you need an experienced attorney on your side. The seasoned and compassionate attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., handle all Illinois estate cases with sensitivity, respect, and discretion.

    At Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., we made our reputation one client at a time, and we put every ounce of our ability into every case. There is no charge for the first consultation, and we will be glad to meet with you at either of our offices, located in Woodridge and Chicago.

    Time is of the essence in estate issues, so call us today to set up your free consultation or contact our team online.

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