Death is an inevitability that everyone must face. While nothing can necessarily prepare an individual to face their own mortality, having one's personal and financial matters in order can help set one's mind at ease.
Most Ohio residents can likely recall the famous lines from the movie the Wizard of Oz advising Dorothy and her companions to "follow the yellow brick road". The man who was reportedly the voice delivering that message was Mickey Carroll who was also one of the so-called munchkins that celebrated Dorothy’s arrival in the land of Oz. The 4 ft. 9 inch 89-year-old actor died five years ago after suffering complications associated with Alzheimer’s disease. His estate was recently the subject of a lawsuit in which his family accused Carroll's former caregiver of undue influence.
A trial is set to get underway soon in which jurors will be asked to decide whether a 74-year-old woman is guilty of using undue influence and fraud to secure funds and assets from her 84-year-old dying husband. The probate lawsuit was filed by some of the 84-year-old man's surviving family members who contend their loved one's second wife took advantage of her husband's diminished health and capacity to transfer and secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets.
In the wake of a loved one's death, numerous matters related to the estate of the deceased must be addressed. As relatives and close friends mourn their loss, emotions often run high. In some cases, as details related to an individual’s estate or will are revealed loved ones may question certain aspects of a will or other matters that affect the inheritance of assets or belongings.
Dynamics within a family can be complex and are often the result of years of interactions with one another. While a family's dysfunctional ways may be apparent to both those outside and inside the family, most families are able to manage their dysfunction to ensure relationships between family members remain relatively happy and peaceful. When a family is faced with the death of a loved one, however, particularly a patriarch or matriarch, harmless familial dysfunction can quickly give way to all out war.
We've previously written posts about estate disputes and will contests in which undue influence or an individual’s capacity was in question. A recent case, which centers on the authenticity of a signature, proves exactly how complicated many cases involving probate litigation can become.
In the face of a health crisis, many families pull together to rally around an ailing family member. For members of one famous family, however, a health crisis involving one family member has served to ignite a major legal dispute related to a multi-million dollar estate.
Regardless of age or circumstances, losing a loved one is often difficult for family members and friends. When that loss is accompanied by questions and suspicions about the descendant’s will or estate, things can quickly escalate to the point where legal action is necessary.
While difficult to fathom, there are those individuals among us who prey upon the elderly. In some cases, these individuals seek to exhort money and assets from unsuspecting older men and women who are made easy targets due to loneliness, dementia or failing health. In other cases, these unscrupulous individuals use undue influence and seek to coerce an elderly man or woman to name them as a beneficiary on a life insurance policy or write them into a will.
In years past, matters related to estate planning and the succession of assets were fairly simple and straightforward. Using an estate planning tool such as a will or trust, individuals could clearly instruct how personal assets and belongings were to be divided amongst heirs. In most cases, the bulk of such assets passed to a surviving spouse, children or grandchildren without question.