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Estate Litigation in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania

Estate Litigation, It’s All We Do


We are a premier estate litigation law firm having handled contested estate matters in the Lehigh County area for decades. Nobody is better than the team fielded by our firm. Our team includes seasoned litigators that are matched with attorneys with advanced degrees in estate matters. The firm’s founder, Peter Klenk, received his masters-in-law, or LL.M, from the prestigious NYU Law School LL.M. program. Our attorneys have also served their country; both attorneys Peter Klenk and Glen Ridenour served in the United States Navy JAGC.

Dedicated, loyal, and hardworking. Let our team represent you.

Contact us to set up a free consultation meeting or phone conference. Let our experienced Lehigh County estate litigation attorneys defend your rights!

Why Hire an Experienced Lehigh 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?

  • Settling the Estate Litigation Dispute: If your attorney does not understand estate litigation, then a chance to settle a dispute might be lost. After decades of helping people through the legal and emotional issues surrounding the death of a friend or family member, I have found that in most cases any disputes that exist can be settled peacefully, especially if the parties have good advice on how to avoid potential conflicts. If the attorney you retain does not understand the strengths and weakness of the Parties positions or how the subtleties of the Lehigh County Orphans’ Court, then a settlement might be missed, resulting in expensive litigation.
  • The Best Representation: In some cases conflict and disputes surrounding an estate are unavoidable. In those cases, it is invaluable for you to have the advice of a Lehigh County estate litigation attorney whose firm focuses exclusively on estate matters. Conflicts involving estate matters in Lehigh County are heard in front of either the Lehigh County Register of Wills or the Lehigh County Orphans’ Court. Our Lehigh County estate litigation lawyers have decades of experience in front of both the Lehigh County Register of Wills and the Lehigh County Orphans’ Court and would be happy to answer your questions during a free consultation.

Our areas of Practice:

Our experienced litigation team focuses only on estate litigation. We don’t dabble in other areas. We provide our Lehigh 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 Lehigh County trust or estate and the fiduciariestrustees, executors or administrators. Our practice in Lehigh County includes but is not limited to the following types of litigation:

  • Lehigh County Will Contests/Will Challenges,
  • Compelling and Defending Accountings Filed With the Lehigh County Orphans’ Court,
  • Representing the Rights of Lehigh County Beneficiaries,
  • Addressing Breach of Fiduciary Duty Matters in the Lehigh County Orphans’ Court,
  • Filing and Defending Caveats with the Lehigh County Register of Wills,
  • Representing Lehigh County Co-Executors/Co-Administrators and Co-Trustees During Disputes,
  • Addressing Fraudulent Transfers from Lehigh County Estates and Trusts,
  • Representing the Various Parties During Lehigh County Guardianship Filings,
  • Representing Agents and Interested Parties During Lehigh County Power of Attorney Disputes,
  • All Lehigh County Probate Litigation,
  • Advising Surviving Spouses About Spousal Rights of Election,
  • Representing Beneficiaries Regarding Removal of a Lehigh County Trustee or Executor,
  • Representing Trustees and Beneficiaries for Trust Reformations,
  • Representing Parties to Will and Trust Construction Disputes, and
  • Advising and Representing Beneficiaries and Executors During Wrongful Death Claims.

Representing You During Trust, Estate and Fiduciary Litigation in Lehigh County

Will Contests and Will Challenges: A Lehigh County will can be contested in the Lehigh 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 Lehigh County Power of Attorney, an Executor or Administrator of a Lehigh County Estate or a Trustee of a Lehigh County situs Trust must either be released by the beneficiaries or obtain a release from the Lehigh County Orphans’ Court. Typically, the fiduciary will have an informal accounting and releases drafted by a Lehigh 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 Lehigh County Orphans’ Court. Typically, the interested parties will have the formal accounting reviewed by a Lehigh 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 Lehigh 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.

Beneficiary Representation:


Often beneficiaries of Lehigh 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 Lehigh County Orphans’ Court. Unless you have years of experience with the rules and procedures surrounding a Lehigh County a estate or interpreting a Lehigh County situs trust, you will likely find this area strange and confusing.

Beneficiary Rights:

At one time the beneficiary of a Lehigh 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 Lehigh 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 Lehigh 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 Lehigh County based Executor, Trustee or serving as the Agent under a Lehigh 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, Lehigh 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.

Caveats:

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 Lehigh County Register of Wills, you have the ability to retain Lehigh County estate litigation attorney to file a Caveat, which will prevent the will from being accepted by the Lehigh County Register of Wills.

Co-Executor, Co-Administrator and Co-Trustee Disputes:

It has become common for Lehigh County Estates to have co-executors or co-administrators. It has also become common for Lehigh 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 Lehigh 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.

Fraudulent Transfers:

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 Lehigh 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 Lehigh County Litigation Attorneys can bring an action for Fraudulent Transfer for you in the Lehigh 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 Lehigh County, a concerned person can retain one of our Lehigh County Litigation Attorneys to petition the Lehigh 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 Lehigh 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 Lehigh County estate litigation to bring that person before the Lehigh 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 Lehigh County estate law, to advise you.

Probate Litigation:

Probate in Lehigh County begins with the Lehigh County Register of Wills. If a deceased Lehigh County resident had a will, then the person who is appointed by the Register is called an Executor. If the deceased Lehigh 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 Lehigh County Register of Wills. Our Lehigh County Litigation Attorneys regularly represent parties in hearings before the Lehigh 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 Lehigh 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 Lehigh County situs Trust or the Executor of a Lehigh 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 Lehigh County Litigation Attorneys file a removal petition with the Lehigh County Orphans’ Court.

Trust Reformations:

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 Lehigh County trust that is not providing the intended benefits envisioned by its grantor, our Lehigh County attorneys focus their entire practice on Trusts and Estates matters, and have years of experience with reformation of Lehigh County Trusts.

Will and Trust Construction:

In Lehigh 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 ofLehighten have ambiguous terms that can cause confusion and disputes. These disputes are heard in the Lehigh County Orphans’ Court.

Wrongful Death Claims:

We work closely with Lehigh 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 Lehigh County Lawyer well versed in estate matters to advise them, to help avoid tax traps and conflicts with the beneficiaries.
Please contact Klenk Law for a Free Consultation for any of your estate litigation needs.

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Estate Matters
The Klenk Law Blog



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