Philadelphia County Estate Litigation
Estate Litigation, It’s All We Do
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Why Hire an Experienced Philadelphia 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 do not dabble in other areas. We provide our clients with experienced, high quality, trusted legal counsel in Philadelphia. Our Philadelphia estate and trust litigation attorneys have years of experience representing both sides should a dispute arise between the beneficiaries of a trust or estate, and the fiduciaries – trustees, executors or administrators. Our practice in Philadelphia includes but is not limited to the following types of litigation:
Will Contests and Will Challenges: Will Contests and Will Challenges: Interested parties can contest a Philadelphia Will in the Philadelphia Orphan’s Court 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 Challenges.
To obtain a full release of liability, an agent under a Philadelphia power of attorney, an executor or administrator of a Philadelphia estate or a trustee of a Philadelphia situs trust must either be released by the beneficiaries, or obtain a release from the Philadelphia Orphans Court. Typically, the fiduciary will have an informal accounting and releases drafted by a Philadelphia estate 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 Philadelphia Orphans’ Court. Typically, the interested parties will have the formal accounting reviewed by a Philadelphia attorney experienced in estate matters. If the formal accounting does not address the beneficiaries’ concerns, then they will have their Philadelphia estate 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. Read More About Accountings.
Often beneficiaries of Philadelphia 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 Philadelphia Orphans’ Court. Unless you have years of experience with the rules and procedures surrounding a Philadelphia estate or interpreting the terms of a Philadelphia situs trust, you will likely find this area peculiar and confusing. Read More About Beneficiary Representation.
At one time the beneficiary of a Philadelphia estate or trust had few if any rights, and executors and trustees held the upper hand. This has changed. Read More About Beneficiary Rights.
Under Pennsylvania law, a fiduciary is a person or professional entity, such as a bank, who holds a special relationship of trust and responsibility to another 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 Philadelphia Orphans’ Court where they will have to defend and explain their actions. Read More About Pursuing A Breach of Fiduciary Claim.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty; Advising Fiduciaries to Prevent Claims:
You may be considering taking on the responsibility of serving as a Philadelphia executor, trustee or serving as the agent under a Philadelphia power of attorney, or you may already be serving in one of these fiduciary positions. Likely, you are willing to take on this responsibility to help a friend or family member, but by shouldering this responsibility you open yourself up to claims of Breach of Fiduciary Duty and potentially open yourself up to personal liability. In general, Philadelphia based 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 serving as a fiduciary. Read More About Protecting Yourself From Claims of Breach of Fiduciary Duty.
If you feel that a forged will, or a will created under undue influence or executed when the deceased person was incapacitated will soon be filed with the Philadelphia Register of Wills, you have the ability to retain a Philadelphia estate litigation attorney to file a caveat, which will prevent the will from being accepted by the Philadelphia Register of Wills or Surrogate. Read More about Caveats.
It has become common for Philadelphia estates to have co-executors or co-administrators. It has also become common for Philadelphia 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 Philadelphia co-executors, co-administrators and co-trustees work together without conflict, sometimes disputes arise requiring each fiduciary to retain his or her own attorney. Read More About Conflicts Between Co-Executors, Co-Administrators and Co-Trustees.
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 Philadelphia 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 Philadelphia litigation attorneys can bring an action for fraudulent transfer for you through the Philadelphia Orphans Court. Read More About Fraudulent Transfer Action.
Age or disease might effect 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 Philadelphia, a concerned person can retain one of our Philadelphia litigation attorneys to petition the Philadelphia 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. Read More About Guardianship and Incapacitated Person Hearings.
If you feel that the person trusted with a Philadelphia 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 who was incompetent to execute the power of attorney, then you have the right to retain an attorney experienced with Philadelphia estate litigation to bring that person before the Philadelphia Orphans’ Court. Read More About Challenging Powers of Attorney.
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 Philadelphia estate law, to advise you. Read More About Defending Powers of Attorney.
Probate in Philadelphia begins with an executor filing a will with the Philadelphia Register of Wills or, if the Philadelphia resident had no will, a petition is filed to open an administration. If a deceased had a will, then the person who is appointed to manage the estate is called an executor or a personal representative. If the deceased 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 Philadelphia Register of Wills. Our Philadelphia litigation attorneys regularly represent parties in hearings before the Philadelphia Register of Wills. Read More About Probate Litigation.
If a beneficiary or other interested party believes that a trustee of a Philadelphia situs trust or the executor of a Philadelphia 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 Philadelphia litigation attorneys file a removal petition with the Philadelphia Orphans’ Court. Read More About Removal Actions.
Under Pennsylvania law a surviving spouse cannot be disinherited except under certain circumstances. In most cases, a surviving spouse of a Philadelphia descendent has the option within a limited time to claim a right for a spousal election. Read More About Spousal Rights of Election.
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 Philadelphia trust that is not providing the intended benefits envisioned by its grantor, our Philadelphia attorneys focus their entire practice on Trusts and Estates matters, and have years of experience with reformation of Philadelphia Trusts. Read More About Trust Reformations.
In Philadelphia 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 often have ambiguous terms that can cause confusion and disputes. These disputes are often heard in the Philadelphia Orphans’ Court. Read More About Will and Trust Construction.
We work closely with Philadelphia 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 Philadelphia lawyer well versed in estate matters to advise them, to help avoid tax traps and conflicts with the beneficiaries. Read More About Wrongful Death Claims.
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