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Maumee Probate Litigation Blog

Take these steps to avoid an inheritance dispute

The last thing anyone wants to see happen after your death is an inheritance dispute. You want to leave behind something for your beneficiaries, and having them fight among themselves is not your idea of how your family should treat one another.

There are a couple things you can do to help your family avoid disputes. With the help of your attorney, you can make sure there's as little risk of a dispute as possible, so your family can receive what you wanted to gift to them and focus more on their emotional healing.

Breaching fiduciary duty: Beneficiaries have a right to act

You create a trust knowing that someone has to carry out the duties of the trust after you pass away. That individual has a fiduciary duty to you, your beneficiaries and the trust itself. You expect that individual to make good decisions and to engage in acts that grow the trust or dole it out fairly.

If a trustee does not work in the beneficiaries' best interests, it's said that the individual is in breach of his or her fiduciary duties. If a person breaches his or her duties, that individual could face a lawsuit from the parties affected by the breach.

Determining a lack of capacity in estate disputes

Your father got older and had to move into a nursing home. You already knew he had a will, and he had set up a trust for your children, his grandchildren. You thought everything was ready and prepared, but when your father passed away, you were shocked to find that the trust had been altered and placed into the name of a worker at the facility where he was treated.

How could that happen? Your father had dementia, and there is no way he had the mental capacity needed to make that decision. What can you do?

Was a financial claim filed against your loved one's estate?

When your loved one dies, his or her estate will go through the probate process. If there's a will on file, after probate, the executor of the estate will distribute the assets according to the distribution plan laid out in the will. If there's no will on file, the assets will be divided according to Ohio intestacy laws.

During probate, creditors to whom the deceased owed money may file claims against the estate for money owed. Let's say a lender comes forward and claims your deceased father owed him or her $200,000 related to a business deal. Whether the estate pays the claim depends on its viability.

Siblings agree to sell family business in trust litigation

The death of a parent is never easy. When significant assets are involved, siblings may have disagreements over how the family legacy should be handled. Even when a parent has created an elaborate plan to pass the family company and other assets on to the children, heated disputes may erupt into litigation. Our Toledo area readers may have missed a story from another Great Lakes state that highlights how a detailed estate plan may not always protect against sibling rivalry.

The patriarch of the family took great care to create a will and various trusts to provide for his children, as well as the wife of one of his sons who had passed away. He also created a charitable foundation in honor of his late wife. His estate documents provided the charity with a $4.5 million gift.

Top five reasons family members fight in probate court

The death of a loved one is never easy. When the family member leaves behind an estate with unfinished business, the sorrow of death is only compounded. While the reasons family members fight in probate court are complex and varied, these are the top five, according to Wealth Management:

1. Local Family Member vs. Distant Family Member

When one family member is local to the deceased and another is distant -- whether emotionally or physically -- the local family member tends to feel entitled to a larger portion of the estate. Some may even attempt to be added to checking accounts under the guise of convenience when in actuality they are attempting to gain control over the person's finances.

Executor mistakes can adversely impact your inheritance rights

In a perfect world, administering an estate should be a seamless process that runs efficiently from start to finish. Unfortunately, many people who are appointed as the executor of an estate have no experience with the process. Mistakes can arise during the probate process - some with little consequence, others that lead to profound probate disputes.

Executors have specific tasks and duties to attend to during the administration of an estate. Gathering assets, obtaining fair values, paying debts of the estate and distributing assets are among the most well-known duties. At any stage of the probate process, problems or mistakes can adversely impact the value of the estate or the rights of beneficiaries or heirs.

Can I challenge my mother's or father's will?

The loss of a parent or other close relative is always painful. Unfortunately, for many people, inheritance disputes can compound the feelings of stress and anxiety during a time of grief. When it comes time to review the contents of a will, some individuals are surprised to find that the will has been recently altered, or a codicil has been executed that creates confusion over the meaning of the original estate plan.

It can be difficult to know where to turn when the words in a will do not meet with your expectations. Changes in our society, such as the tremendous increase in blended families, have led to an increase in family disputes in recent decades. As life expectancies are growing longer, there is a growing chance that issues such as the capacity to execute a will or the existence of undue adversely influence can impact a person's inheritance rights.

What types of assets don't have to go through probate?

The time immediately following the loss of a loved one can be very difficult. Oftentimes the last thing anyone wants to do after such a loss is to care for legal concerns while also attempting to grieve and process. Because of this, some may want to relocate some of their assets into certain types of assets in order to reduce the amount of time their loved ones will have to spend in probate court following their death.

In the state of Ohio, many county courts have their own rules regarding probate litigations, but there are usually a handful of assets that are not required to go through probate, regardless of individual court rules. These include,

Considerations when transferring farm property to family

Ohio farmers sometimes face unique issues when it comes to asset transfer. It's not uncommon for a farmer to want to leave real property to a specific family member on death or even transfer an ownership interest during life. The legal options available allow for several variations of transfer timing and structure. Corporations and limited liability companies offer tremendous flexibility and may be beneficial as estate planning tools or to facilitate asset transfer.

When it comes to transferring ownership of farm property, a distinction must be made based on whether the property in question consists of operating assets or land assets. Generally speaking, corporations should be established only for a business purpose; they are not ideal if asset transfer is the only goal. If the assets are operating assets, a corporation may be the best option with regard to business protection and tax savings.

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