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Litigation Definitions

Estate Litigation Definitions

We hope you find this information useful. Our Estate Litigation Lawyers work for clients throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Florida. We find that clients in every location are curious about the terms we use in Estate Litigation, so we have created this page to explain these terms. If you have any other Estate Litigation Terms that you would like defined, please feel free to contact one of our Estate Litigation Lawyers.

Definitions of typical terms that refer to Trust, Estate and Fiduciary Litigation:


Guardianship Proceedings

Surcharge Actions

Undue Influence

Will and Trust Construction Disputes

Will Contest or Will Challenge



Contact one of our Estate Litigation attorneys, such as Glen Ridenour.

Guardianship Proceedings

In Estate Litigation, a Legal Guardian is a person lawfully invested with the power, and charged with the duty, of taking care of a person and/or managing the property and rights of another person, who, for defect of age, understanding, or self-control, is considered incapable of administering his own affairs.

Taking away the rights of a person to manage his or her own affairs is a serious decision.

Each state has developed unique, but similar, processes to determine if a Guardianship is necessary. Guardianship Proceedings filed by a Guardianship Attorney in Camden, or Burlington County, New Jersey will be similar, but different from the process followed by a Guardianship Lawyer in Philadelphia, or Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

A person may require the appointment of a Guardian of the Person, who cares for the person’s day-to-day needs, and/or may require the appointment of a Guardian of the Estate, who cares for the person’s assets. This Guardian maybe the same person, or two different people, depending upon the Court’s decision.

Estate Litigation involving Guardianship is often delicate and difficult. Retaining an Estate Ligation Attorney experienced with Guardianship Proceedings can save you much time and expense.

We are Estate Litigation Lawyers familiar with Guardianship Proceedings. Our firm represents clients in Guardianship Proceedings from Salem and Gloucester Counties in New Jersey to Bucks County, Pennsylvania. We serve as Guardianship Attorneys throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Florida. Please contact us should you have a question for a Guardianship Lawyer. Our Guardianship Lawyers will provide you with a no cost, free initial consultation.


Contact our Estate Litigation Staff, Peter L. Klenk, Attorney, Senior Litigation Lawyer.

Surcharge Actions

In Estate Litigation, a Surcharge is awarded to compensate beneficiaries for loss occasioned by a fiduciary’s breach of one or more of the duties owed to them.

A fiduciary, such as an Agent under a Power of Attorney, Trustee of a Trust, or Executor of a Will, owes a duty of care to the persons he or she serves. In most cases, should those persons feel that the fiduciary has violated that duty, and caused a resulting damage, they may retain an Attorney experienced with Surcharges to petition the court. The judge will hear the case and, if the judge determines that the Agent, Executor, or Trustee caused harm through a violation of duty, the judge may Surcharge the fiduciary for the damages which resulted from his or her actions.

Estate Litigation over Surcharges vary from state to state. A Surcharge action filed by a Surcharge Attorney in Atlantic County, New Jersey will differ from the Surcharge action filed by a Surcharge Attorney in Philadelphia.

Once your Surcharge Lawyer files your case, you have the burden of proving certain elements. Dependinfg upon the jurisdiction, if you are successful in proving these elements, the burden of proving that the fiduciary exercised ordinary prudence in carrying out his or her actions, or that no damage resulted from the actions of the fiduciary, shifts to the fiduciary (Executor, Agent, or Trustee)

These elements supporting a Surcharge vary between jurisdictions. Obtaining the necessary evidence may include gathering financial records, deposing witnesses and possibly retaining expert witnesses. Though similar, a Camden, or Burlington County, New Jersey Surcharge action has different elements from a Philadelphia, or Montgomery County Surcharge Action. An attorney familiar with Surcharge Actions can explain these subtle, but important differences.

Estate Litigation over Surcharges are complex. Retaining an Attorney experienced with Surcharge Actions can save you much time and expense.

We are Lawyers familiar with Surcharge Actions. Our firm represents clients in Surcharge Actions from Atlantic County, New Jersey to Montgomery and Bucks County, Pennsylvania. We serve as Surcharge Attorneys throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Florida. Please contact us should you have a question for a Surcharge Lawyer. Our Surcharge Lawyers will provide you with a no cost, free initial consultation.


Contact one of our Estate Litigation attorneys, such as Glen Ridenour.

Undue Influence

In Estate Litigation, Undue Influence occurs when any improper or wrongful constraint, machination, or urgency of persuasion is used whereby the Will of a person is overpowered and he is induced to do or forbear an act which he would not do or would do if left to act freely.

The elements of proving that Undue Influence occurred surrounding the decedent’s Will vary among courts. An Undue Influence Estate Litigation case in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania will have different, but similar, elements from an Undue Influence case taking place in Gloucester County, New Jersey.

For example, in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, once your Undue Influence Lawyer files your case, you have the burden of proving certain elements. If you can prove these elements, the burden of proving that Undue Influence did not occur shifts to the Will’s proponent. Obtaining the necessary evidence to shift the burden of proof may include gathering medical evidence and deposing witnesses. Though similar, a Camden County, New Jersey Undue Influence case has different elements and, thus, requires the presentation of different evidence from a Philadelphia or Montgomery County Undue Influence Contest. An Estate Litigation Attorney familiar with Undue Influence cases can explain these subtle, but important differences.

Estate Litigation over a claim of Undue Influence is complex. Retaining an Attorney experienced with Undue Influence Litigation cases can save you much time and expense.

As Lawyers experienced in Undue Influence Litigation, our firm represents clients in challenges from Atlantic County, New Jersey to Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. We serve as Undue Influence Attorneys throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Florida. Please contact us should you have a question for an Undue Influence Lawyer. Our Undue Influence Lawyers will provide you with a no cost, free initial consultation.


Contact our Estate Litigation Staff, Peter L. Klenk, Attorney, Senior Litigation Lawyer.

Will and Trust Construction Disputes

In Estate Litigation, some disputes are not over the validity of a Will or Trust, but instead are over the terms of the Will or Trust. Such a dispute may be over the the “Construction” of the Will or Trust the interpretation, which is given to provisions of the Will, and the law to be applied therein.

A dispute over a Will or Trusts’ Construction takes place in a specialized court. In Pennsylvania this would be the Orphans’ Court and in New Jersey, Florida and New York, the Superior Courts. These courts often have judges who specialize in the areas of Trusts and Wills.

A Will or Trust Construction may be over any term of the document, and may include issues including, but not limited to, tax issues, jurisdiction and issues of applicable statutory and case law. They are often complex and retaining an Attorney experienced with Will and Trust Construction can save you much time and expense.

Estate Litigation over Will and Trust Construction can be complex. Retaining an Attorney experienced with Will and Trust Construction can save you much time and expense.

We are Lawyers familiar with Will and Trust Construction. Our Lawyers have specialized degrees in Estate Planning and in Taxation of Trusts and Estates. Our firm represents clients in Will and Trust Construction disputes from Palm Beach County, Florida to Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. We serve as Will and Trust Construction Attorneys throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Florida. Please contact us should you have a question for a Will or Trust Construction Lawyer. Our Will and Trust Construction Lawyers will provide you with a no cost, free initial consultation.


Contact one of our Estate Litigation attorneys, such as Glen Ridenour.

Will Contest or Will Challenge

In Estate Litgation, a Will Contest or Will Challenge, means a proceeding for the determination of questions over the terms of a Will or over whether a certain document is a Will. This is true no matter where it takes place, from the Philadelphia Orphans’ Court to the Surrogate or Superior Courts of Burlington County, New Jersey, The process of having an Estate Litigation Attorney file your Will Challenge will differ from state to state. For example, though the underlying principals are the same, the form and type of Petition filed in a Will Challenge case in Palm Beach County, Florida is very different from Will Contest in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Further, procedures for filing such a case even differ from county to county. The rules in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania Orphans’ Court differ from those in the Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Orphans’ Court. These include procedural and discovery rules. Importantly, after a Will is filed parties have only a limited amount of time to file a Will Challenge. The Statute of Limitations for filing a Will Challenge differ among Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. If your Estate Litigation Attorney does not file the Will Contest within the Statute of Limitations period, the Court will refuse to hear your Will Challenge case.

Once your Will Challenge Attorney files your case, you have the burden of proving certain elements. The elements are the building blocks of your case. When all elements are proven, you have satisfied the court that you have the evidence necessary to shift the burden to disprove your Will Challenge to those who support the challenged Will. If you do not prove the elements of your Will Challenge Case, the court will not require the Will’s proponents to put on any evidence. These Will Challenge elements vary between jurisdictions. Though similar, a Broward County, Florida Will Challenge case has different elements from a Philadelphia or Camden County Will Contest. An Will Challenge Attorney familiar with Will Challenge cases can explain these subtle, but important differences.

Estate Litigation involving Will Challenges are complex. Retaining an Attorney experienced with Will Contests can save you much time and expense.

As Will Challenge Attorneys, our firm represents clients in challenges from Palm Beach County, Florida to New York City, New York. We serve as Will Challenge Attorneys throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Florida. Please contact us should you have a question for a Will Challenge Lawyer. Our Will Challenge Lawyers will provide you with a no cost, free initial consultation.


Our offices are located in Center City Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Doylestown, Allentown, Voorhees, New Jersey, and New York. We provide legal representation to clients in all counties in the state of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

All Counties we serve in Pennsylvania:

Adams County, Allegheny County Armstrong County, Beaver County, Bedford County, Berks County, Blair County, Bradford County, Bucks County, Butler County, Cambria County, Cameron County, Carbon County, Centre County, Chester County, Clarion County, Clearfield County, Clinton County, Columbia County, Crawford County, Cumberland County, Dauphin County, Delaware County, Elk County, Erie County, Fayette County, Forest County, Franklin County, Fulton County, Greene County, Huntingdon County, Indiana County, Jefferson County, Juniata County, Lackawanna County, Lancaster County, Lawrence County, Lebanon County, Lehigh County, Luzerne County, Lycoming County, McKean County, Mercer County, Mifflin County, Monroe County, Montgomery County, Montour County, Northampton County, Northumberland County, Perry County, Philadelphia County, Pike County, Potter County, Schuykill County, Snyder County, Somerset County, Sullivan County, Susquehanna County, Tioga County, Union County, Venango County, Warren County, Washington County, Wayne County, Westmoreland County, Wyoming County, and York County.

All Counties we serve in New Jersey:

Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County and Warren County.