During estate contests, family members often end up mad at one another. In these situations, a common question asked by family members is, “When is the right time to proceed to court?” Surprisingly, the answer to this question is often that only when everything else has failed and no other options exist is it a good idea to proceed to court. Instead, there are many other attractive and easier options to resolve estate issues.

What Types of Claims are Common in Contested Estates?

It is common for estate contests to involve various types of claims. Some of the most common claims brought up during estate disputes include:

  • Actions for the accounting of a trust or estate 
  • Actions for the removal of an executor trustee due to mismanagement of an estate or failure to make adequate distributions 
  • Estate planning documents are invalid due to lack of capacity or undue influence
  • Guardians of an incapacitated individual

There are some situations where going to court is either required or necessary. There is a specific period to contest estate planning documents and court filings are required. Or, there might be an immediate event that will harm the beneficiaries of an estate. It is not always the case, however, that pursuing action through a court is necessary. 

Think Twice About Proceeding to Court

Many times, it is a better idea for clients not to immediately proceed to court. Lawsuits are often costly as well as emotionally draining. Additionally, lawsuits follow structured rules, which requires the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney. 

It is often a better idea to negotiate a resolution with a family member. The threat of a lawsuit is often sufficient to lead to adequate negotiation. Negotiation may be effective for parties to explain their positions and explore whether a dispute can be resolved through such an agreement. Meditation is also an option to consider and much less costly than a lawsuit. 

Some examples of issues that can be resolved without having to proceed to litigation include:

  • An executor agrees to sell family real estate as well as distribute the proceeds to beneficiaries after years of refusing to do so 
  • A full accounting of a trust for several years and resolution of improper actions
  • A trustee agreeing to resign and appoint a new trustee
  • A trustee agreeing to make annual distributions of an agree-on amount from a trust
  • A trustee agreeing to change investment advisors so more income can be generated for the beneficiary 

Remember, while court might seem like the best options, there are often more attractive alternatives that can be reached like alternative dispute resolution. A knowledgeable estate planning attorney can help you navigate these issues. 

Speak With a Knowledgeable Estate Planning Attorney

The estate planning process is full of challenges, and one of the best things you can do to navigate this process is to obtain the assistance of an experienced estate planning lawyer. Contact attorney Jim A Lyon today to schedule a free case evaluation.