Estate Litigation in Delaware County, Pennsylvania
Estate Litigation, It’s All We Do
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Why Hire an Experienced Delaware County Estate Litigation Lawyer?
Estate litigation matters are highly technical and extremely complex. Why hire a general practitioner or an attorney who only dabbles in estate litigation?
Our areas of Practice:
Our experienced litigation team focuses only on estate litigation. We don’t dabble in other areas. We provide our Delaware County clients with experienced, high quality, trusted legal counsel. Our estate and trust litigation attorneys have years of experience representing both sides should a dispute arise between the beneficiaries of a Delaware County trust or estate and the fiduciaries – trustees, executors or administrators. Our practice in Delaware County includes but is not limited to the following types of litigation:
Representing You During Trust, Estate and Fiduciary Litigation in Delaware County
Will Contests and Will Challenges: A Delaware County will can be contested in the Delaware County Orphan’s Court by interested parties when the scrivener was under undue influence, when the will is a forgery, if there was fraud, or if the person lacked capacity to sign the will. Read more about will contests and will challenges.
Accountings, Compelling and Defending:
To obtain a full release of liability, an Agent under a Delaware County Power of Attorney, an Executor or Administrator of a Delaware County Estate or a Trustee of a Delaware County situs Trust must either be released by the beneficiaries or obtain a release from the Delaware County Orphans’ Court. Typically, the fiduciary will have an informal accounting and releases drafted by a Delaware County attorney, which is then circulated to all interested parties. If the Beneficiaries will not sign the release, then in order for the fiduciary to be released, he or she must file a formal accounting. This Accounting must be served on all interested parties and submitted for review by the Delaware County Orphans’ Court. Typically, the interested parties will have the formal accounting reviewed by a Delaware County attorney experienced in estate matters review the accounting, and advise them. If the formal accounting does not satisfy the concerns of these interested parties, then they will have their Delaware County attorney file Objections to the Accounting. By filing Objections to the Accounting the Beneficiary then obtains the right to appear in front of the judge to dispute the actions taken by the Agent, Executor or Trustee.
Often beneficiaries of Delaware County estates and trusts will retain our firm to represent them, even if there is no immediate need to file a cause of action in the Delaware County Orphans’ Court. Unless you have years of experience with the rules and procedures surrounding a Delaware County a estate or interpreting a Delaware County situs trust, you will likely find this area strange and confusing.
At one time the beneficiary of a Delaware County estate or trust had view if any rights, and executors and trustees held the upper hand. This has changed.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty:
Under Delaware County law, a fiduciary is a person or professional entity, such as a bank, who holds a special relationship of trust and responsibility to anther person. Typical examples of fiduciaries are executors, personal representatives, administrators, trustees and agents. If a person or entity has agreed to take on the position of fiduciary, then they are held to have a duty to execute the responsibilities of that position. If you believe a fiduciary has abused his or her powers or has not carried out his or her duties, and this has resulted in harm or financial loss, you can have our Estate Litigation Attorneys bring them before the Delaware County Orphans’ Court, where they will have to defend and explain their actions.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty; Advising Fiduciaries to Prevent Claims:
You may be considering taking on the responsibility of serving as a Delaware County based Executor, Trustee or serving as the Agent under a Delaware County based Power of Attorney, or you may already be serving as such a fiduciary. Likely, you are willing to take on this job to help a friend or family member, but by taking this job you open yourself up to claims of Breach of Fiduciary Duty and potentially open yourself up to personal liability. In general, Delaware County Agents, Executors and Trustees are allowed to use the assets under their control to hire an attorney to advise them to help avoid traps and pitfalls inherent in the job.
If you feel that a forged will, or a will created under undue influence or executed when the deceased person was incapacitated will be filed with the Delaware County Register of Wills, you have the ability to retain Delaware County estate litigation attorney to file a Caveat, which will prevent the will from being accepted by the Delaware County Register of Wills.
Co-Executor, Co-Administrator and Co-Trustee Disputes:
It has become common for Delaware County Estates to have co-executors or co-administrators. It has also become common for Delaware County situs Trusts to have co-trustees. Modern communication allows co-fiduciaries to handle matters from great distances by using overnight mail, faxes, and email to accomplish tasks in days that once took weeks. While most Delaware County co-executors, co-administrators and co-trustees work together without conflict, sometimes disputes arise requiring each fiduciary to retain his or her own attorney.
It is a sad but true reality that when persons are weakened by age, infirmity or mental health, others around them sometimes take advantage of this weakened state. Sadder yet, the people who most often abuse the trust of others are family members, friends and even attorneys or members of the person’s church. If you believe the assets of a Delaware County resident, such as a bank account, deed or personal property such as jewelry have been obtained improperly from a weakened person, especially in the last months of their lifetime, our experienced Delaware County Litigation Attorneys can bring an action for Fraudulent Transfer for you in the Delaware County Orphans’ Court.
Guardianship and Incapacitated Person Hearings:
Age or disease might affect a person so they are no longer able to make their own financial decisions or even make the most simple decisions about their own care. If that person resides in Delaware County, a concerned person can retain one of our Delaware County Litigation Attorneys to petition the Delaware County Orphans’ Court to have a Guardian of the Person or Guardian of the Estate appointed to care for the incapacitated person with the court’s oversight.
Powers of Attorney, Challenging:
If you feel that the person trusted with a Delaware County Power of Attorney has abused that power through misuse of authority, self-dealing, theft or embezzlement, or if you feel that the power of attorney was obtained through undue influence or from a person was incompetent to execute the power of attorney, then you have the right to retain an attorney experienced with Delaware County estate litigation to bring that person before the Delaware County Orphans’ Court.
Powers of Attorney, Defending:
If you have accepted the position of Agent under a power of attorney then you have also accepted the possibility that an interested party will question what you have done with that power. You may have been the most honest Agent possible, but you may still be required to defend your actions in court. Because of that legal responsibility, and the danger of being surcharged from your own funds for actions you took as agent, you may wish to retain one of our lawyers, experienced in Delaware County estate law, to advise you.
Probate in Delaware County begins with the Delaware County Register of Wills. If a deceased Delaware County resident had a will, then the person who is appointed by the Register is called an Executor. If the deceased Delaware County resident had no will, then the Register is charged to select from the eligible persons an Administrator to administer the estate. If the terms of the will are vague, or if there is no will, then a dispute might exist between the interested parties as to who should serve as the executor or administrator. This dispute might lead to a hearing with the Delaware County Register of Wills. Our Delaware County Litigation Attorneys regularly represent parties in hearings before the Delaware County Register of Wills.
Spousal Right of Election:
Under Pennsylvania law a surviving spouse cannot be disinherited except under certain circumstances. In most cases, a surviving spouse of a Delaware County deceased has the option within a limited time to claim a right for a spousal election.
Removal of Trustees and Executors:
If a beneficiary or other interested party believes that a Trustee of a Delaware County situs Trust or the Executor of a Delaware County Estate has not fulfilled his duties or obligations, or has committed a Breach of Fiduciary Duty, he or she can have one of our experienced Delaware County Litigation Attorneys file a removal petition with the Delaware County Orphans’ Court.
A Trust Reformation is that actual changing of the trust’s terms. Changing the terms of an Irrevocable Trust is a complex matter that could have several unexpected results, so it should not be attempted by anyone without a complete understanding of the various Federal and Pennsylvania tax ramifications as well as Pennsylvania trust law and asset protection aspects of trusts. This is not something learned quickly or easily, it takes years of study and practice to fully understand. If you are the trustee or a beneficiary of a Delaware County trust that is not providing the intended benefits envisioned by its grantor, our Delaware County attorneys focus their entire practice on Trusts and Estates matters, and have years of experience with reformation of Delaware County Trusts.
Will and Trust Construction:
In Delaware County estate litigation, sometimes the dispute is not over the validity of a will or trust, instead it is a dispute over the terms of the will or trust. Badly drafted wills and trusts ofDelawareten have ambiguous terms that can cause confusion and disputes. These disputes are heard in the Delaware County Orphans’ Court.
Wrongful Death Claims:
We work closely with Delaware County executors who bring wrongful death claims on behalf of the deceased. The actual law suit is handled by attorneys who specialize in wrongful death suits, but these attorneys rarely also specialize in the complex tax matters and with the delicate and complex settlements that must take place with the eventual settlement funds. The executor is well advised to have a Delaware County Lawyer well versed in estate matters to advise them, to help avoid tax traps and conflicts with the beneficiaries.
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