Although administering an estate can be fairly straightforward in some cases, it is not unusual for challenges to arise. The best way to avoid potential problems is to have an estate planning attorney help you draft a will and create a solid plan long before it is needed. If a loved one has passed away and you are having trouble with estate administration, a probate litigation attorney can help you resolve disputes and make the process run more smoothly.
There is No Will
When someone dies without a will, typically the laws of intestacy are applied when administering an estate. In Pennsylvania, this means that your assets may be distributed to your spouse, children, parents, and/or siblings in a way that may not align with your wishes. This can add to the turmoil your family may be going through at this difficult time. Having a will in place helps to ensure that your assets are distributed to the beneficiaries you choose and allows you to address other issues like guardianship of minor children.
It is also important to note that if you do not have a valid will, a personal representative will be appointed by the court, and may not be someone you would choose as the executor of your estate. If you have been appointed as a personal representative, it is a good idea to seek the advice of local attorneys, such as estate planning lawyers in Chester County, PA.
The Executor or Personal Representative Fails to Perform Their Duties
The personal representative of an estate is responsible for performing many important tasks. Like a trustee, a personal representative is considered a fiduciary, which means that the best interests of the estate must be put before his/her own interets. In addition to initiating probate and administering an estate in a timely manner, a personal representative must put creditors on notice, take a full accounting of assets, and distribute them according to the will, trust, or laws of intestacy. The personal representative must also file and pay taxes for the estate.
In some cases, a personal representative of an estate may fail to follow a decedent’s instructions or mismanage funds and property. When this happens, it is possible to have him/her removed as the personal representative. Top estate planning law firms recommend that families consult a probate litigation attorney who can help them understand their rights and assist with any legal issues.
Will or Trust Contests
The validity of wills and trusts can be contested by interested parties such as the spouse or children of the decedent. Some common grounds for contesting a will include undue influence, incapacity, forgery, or fraud. Multiple versions of a will or conflicting documents can also lead to problems.
Trusts can be challenged as well. To help avoid these issues, it is critical to have an experienced estate planning lawyer help you draft a will and advise you on which types of trusts will best suit your specific circumstances.
Other Common Estate Administration Issues
Some other matters that commonly arise when administering an estate include:
● Dealing with a will created in a different state
● Property owned in other states or countries
● Creditor claims
● Tax issues
● Failing to update a will or estate plan after a divorce, marriage, or birth of a child
If you are facing estate administration challenges or need to bring your estate plan up to date, our attorneys can help.