Probate Litigation Attorney in San Diego
The death of a family member or loved one can become more complicated if the beneficiaries and heirs contest the will or trust. While the estate distribution happens during the probate process, it doesn’t always occur without issues.
If problems arise and are not settled quickly, they can turn into complicated probate litigation resulting in a reduction of assets and delays in the final settlement of the estate. You may need a credible San Diego estate planning attorney to help you settle probate disputes and resolve estate planning issues.
Attorney Vincent Casiano is experienced in California probate litigation. He has aggressive courtroom skills that will meet your needs. He focuses on handling complex estate litigation matters that involve wills, trusts, and probate.
If you’re involved in a probate dispute or have concerns about a recently deceased loved one’s estate, a credible San Diego probate and trust litigation attorney can help.
What is Probate?
Probate is a court-supervised process of settling the legal and financial affairs of someone who died. The probate process may vary if a person dies with or without a will.
Generally, settling an estate is a continuing process that involves the following:
- Determining what property is owned by the decedent
- Paying the decedent’s debts and taxes
- Distributing all remaining property to the chosen beneficiaries
A credible San Diego probate lawyer can help you understand the process of probate.
What happens when a person dies with a will?
If a person dies with a will, the court determines if the will is valid and authentic. An executor or personal representative, who is either nominated in the deceased person’s will or appointed by the probate court, has the legal authority to:
- Oversee all assets and property in the estate
- Pay debts
- File taxes
- Distribute estate property to the rightful heirs and beneficiaries
- File all accountings of the estate with the probate court
What happens when a person dies WITHOUT a will?
If a person dies without a will (dying intestate), the process becomes more complicated. Even without a will, probate is still necessary to pay the decedent’s final bills and distribute their estate.
In this situation, the court will distribute the decedent’s assets according to the state intestacy laws. Since there is no document stating your final wishes, the court will handle the proceedings and decide on your behalf.
What is Probate Litigation?
- Even if a will is valid, many other disputes can arise as an estate moves through probate. Typically, all parties involved agree on the statements written in a will. However, some family members choose to contest the terms of the will leading to legal action.
Probate litigation is the procedure where court action is requested to settle a dispute. Through probate litigation, the court system will examine the details of the case and determine whether the deceased person’s will should be honored as written or if you should follow another arrangement.
Disputes may arise when:
- Siblings bring life-long rivalries and feuds into probate
- People who cared for the deceased may have influenced the will
- Individuals appointed to administer the estate, or oversee a trust administration bring their interests into play
You can resolve these legal issues through a legal process known as probate litigation. A knowledgeable San Diego probate litigation attorney like Vincent Casiano can help settle disputes in probate litigation cases and ensure the best possible results.
Do You Need a Probate Litigation Attorney?
What’s the advantage of having a probate litigator who can also draft your estate planning documents? Watch the video below to find out!
Probate doesn’t always require a hearing from a judge. However, it may be necessary if there are questions about how the deceased wanted to distribute their assets or if there are conflicts over the legal heirs.
There are countless situations where a dispute can arise when settling the affairs of your loved one who recently passed. Heirs and beneficiaries might fight over the distribution of properties and funds. Family members might find it difficult to trust the estate administrator.
Attorney Vincent Casiano can help with matters that involve:
Contesting a Will
An interested party can contest a will in California by moving immediately after the deceased’s death. They can object the executor’s petition to probate the will. After the petition, potential heirs, creditors to the estate, and other parties involved are notified and may file their petition to contest the will. The petition must explain why the will is being opposed. Wills are presumed to be valid, so challenges carry a high burden of proof.
Contesting a Trust
A trust is established to transfer assets to beneficiaries without going through probate. Contesting a trust requires filing a lawsuit in probate court. The petition should specify why the trust is being challenged and what the probate court should do to grant relief to the petitioner.
Why is Probate Litigation Necessary?
There are several reasons why probate litigation may be necessary. Here are some of the most common issues for which you can seek court action with the help of a skilled San Diego probate litigation lawyer.
Challenges to the Will
Will disputes and contests are among the most common causes of probate litigation. However, you can’t contest a will simply because you disagree with its terms. If you would like to challenge whether or not a will is valid, you can file probate litigation for the following reasons:
- The terms of the will were unduly influenced by someone close to the decedent
- The decedent lacked the required mental capacity to make the will
- The decedent executed another will after the one offered for probate
- The will did not conform to the formal requirements of the state
Claims of Executor’s Breach of Fiduciary Duties
Probate litigation happens when the fiduciary acting on behalf of an estate fails to comply with the decedent’s instructions or obligations under state laws.
The person administering the estate has a strict fiduciary duty. The court will resolve any claims that the fiduciary duty has been breached in the probate proceeding.
Breaches of fiduciary responsibilities may include:
- Failing to distribute estate assets by the will
- Wasting estate assets
- Engaging in self-dealing (including charging unreasonable administration fees to the estate).
An executor or a personal representative who breaches their fiduciary responsibilities may be removed from their position, ordered to undertake specific legal actions, or required to compensate the estate or beneficiaries for any losses.
If you are having problems with an executor, you may seek legal assistance from an experienced San Diego probate litigation lawyer to help you file a lawsuit to have them removed and replaced with a responsible fiduciary in place.
Recovery of Estate Property
Probate litigation may be required for the administrator to recover estate property that was sold, given away, or taken under questionable circumstances.
This includes transactions that involved gifts by the deceased or the sale of the property at meager prices.
The common grounds for questioning property transfers are:
- If the person who received the property committed fraud
- If the person receiving the property exercised undue influence over the decedent
- The decedent’s actual intent at the time of the transfer
- The decedent’s ability and capacity to understand what was going on at the time of the transfer
Claims Against the Estate
Before the final distribution of the estate property, all claims against the estate must be resolved. Probate litigation over these claims may occur in probate courts, depending on the current limits of probate court jurisdiction and the nature of the claim. For instance, claims based on potential liability for personal injuries caused in a vehicle accident cannot be settled until the decedent’s liability is determined.
What Are Some Potential Grounds for Challenging a Will or Trust?
You may question changes to a will or trust if it was established during a person’s later years in life. This is particularly true if you suspect that someone influenced the person to change their will for their interest.
Lack of Mental Capacity
A trust or will may also be deemed invalid if the individual lacked the mental capacity to understand the consequences of their decision when the estate plan was drafted or amended.
When a beneficiary makes a false statement to a person making a will so it benefits him, the document can be invalid. If such fraud was perpetrated to exclude or disinherit an otherwise entitled heir from a will, the probate judge can rule that the will should be set aside.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
According to California law, estate executors, conservators, and trustees have strict duties responsibilities. You can use these laws to stop a fiduciary who is misappropriating assets, distributing them improperly, or failing to account for the estate’s status properly.
How a Probate Litigation Attorney Can Help You
Sometimes, contesting a will or trust is your only option for standing up for your rights and getting the inheritance you deserve.
Attorney Vincent Casiano is ready to fight for you. He has provided unsurpassed representation in notable cases throughout California. He is an experienced probate litigation attorney in San Diego who will review the trust or will documents that will support your claim and aggressively fight to win your case.
Hire a San Diego Probate Litigation Attorney Now!
With or without a valid will, disputes may arise between the executor and beneficiaries during the probate process. You can only settle most of these disputes through probate litigation. Litigating probate cases can be very costly and can take years to resolve, unless you work with a seasoned probate litigation lawyer.
If you and your loved ones struggle with a probate dispute, experienced San Diego probate litigation attorney Vincent Casiano can offer you the legal assistance you need. His probate and trust litigation law firm is committed to aggressively defending your rights.
Attorney Vincent Casiano has extensive experience litigating numerous probate and estate matters in California. He provides legal guidance in probate law cases, including will or trust contests, probate litigation, estate disputes, and other aspects of estate administration. Regardless of whether you are an heir, an estate administrator, or another party to a will or trust, you can reach out to Vincent to make the best decisions about your loved one’s estate.