In addition to all the other important reasons to carefully prepare a will and or trust, is this one: having a solid estate plan is the best way to avoid the disputes that can arise from a lack of clarity about intentions for family assets or a lack of confidence in the person designated to administer our affairs. Estate law experts offer insights on common disputes—and how to avoid them.
Preventing Probate Litigation
Although most families will participate in their state’s probate process upon the death of a loved one, they will hopefully avoid the need for probate ligitation brought on by disputes, which can be costly in terms of time, money and relationships. Frank & Kraft point out that one way to avoid the possibility of probate litigation is to make a will:
If you die without a Last Will and testament your estate is referred to as an “intestate estate.” Intestate estate disputes often occur when more than one person wants to be in charge of administering the estate. Disputes also commonly occur when family members and/or loved ones claim that assets were “promised” to them by the decedent. Creating and executing a valid Will can avoid both disputes.
Estate law experts stress that to prevent disputes, a will must be carefully prepared and accepted as valid. If an heir or beneficiary raises allegations concerning validity, will contests can result in delays and litigation during probate. As Frank & Kraft explain:
An heir or beneficiary may initiate a Will contest, alleging that the Will presented for probate is legally invalid. When a Will contest is initiated, the entire probate process effectively grinds to a halt to focus on the challenge to the Will. Until that issue is decided one way, or the other, probate cannot move forward because the outcome of the Will contest determines how the estate is probate. Working with an experienced attorney to create a solid, and legally valid, Will avoids the likelihood of this dispute and decreases the likelihood of a successful Will contest if one is filed.
When working with a lawyer to create a will, it’s important to carefully designate an executor to oversee your affairs. The executor has a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of the estate and beneficiaries. Accordingly, executor bonds are often requested and can even be required by the probate court. Essentially, executor bonds are a specific type of fiduciary bond that guarantee the faithful performance of the executor in accordance with the law. Colonial Surety makes it quick and easy to get executor bonds. The steps are simply: get a quote online, fill in the information and enter a payment method. The bond can then be e-filed or printed from anywhere—even before leaving the law office or probate court.
Although the assets placed in a trust do not have to pass through the probate process, disputes can still arise related to trusts, especially if the trust agreement is not prepared with sufficient detail. Law experts observe that trust disputes commonly involve:
- The meaning/intent of vague trust terms
- The discretion a Trustee has to make distributions
- Whether a trust can/should be terminated
- Complaints about how the Trustee is fulfilling his/her duties
- Confusion or problems with how a trust interacts with other documents, such as a Will
To avoid these types of disputes, it’s important to ensure “the trust terms are clear, the right Trustee is appointed, and the trust does not conflict with other estate planning documents.” Like an executor, a trustee has a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of the trust and its beneficiaries. Accordingly, trustee bonds are often requested. Essentially, a trustee bond guarantees the faithful performance of the trustee in accordance with the law. Colonial Surety makes it quick and easy to obtain trustee bonds. The steps are simply: get a quote online, fill in the information and enter a payment method. The bond can then be e-filed or printed from anywhere—even before leaving the law office.
Estate Law Practice?
Across the country, lawyers and their clients rely on Colonial Surety’s efficient online service to quickly obtain a quote, make the purchase and instantly print or e-file bonds. Colonial’s fiduciary bond portfolio includes: trustee, conservator, guardian, personal representative, administrator, estate, executor, probate, surrogate, and more.
In addition to providing bonds directly to the general public, Colonial offers The Partnership Account® for Attorneys . This free business service provides user-friendly client management dashboards, enabling attorneys to easily coordinate, view, complete and e-file the court and fiduciary bonds clients need. See for yourself today: The Partnership Account® for Attorneys.
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