Will, Trust, & Estate Litigation

In the movies, heroes and heroines are constantly being approached by mysterious strangers who have come to administer a long-lost relative’s will or trust. Generally, our protagonist is handed some mystical object or perhaps given the keys to a house, and thus — the film takes off on some grand adventure.

Unfortunately, this is one of the many things that the movies got wrong. When the time comes to distribute a loved one’s assets and property, the process is rarely simple and never easy. Outside of the pain of loss, there’s the paperwork and the emotional strain of having to comb through your loved one’s possessions. And, as you can imagine, the process becomes even more difficult when there is a disagreement between the people involved.

For all these reasons, it’s important to work with an empathetic attorney who is well versed in estate planning, probate, and (should the need arise) estate litigation. Not to worry — all of these terms are defined below.

Causes of Probate & Estate-Related Disputes

If you’ve recently lost a loved one, let me first say that I’m sorry for your loss, and I hope the legal proceedings that follow are as easy as possible on you and your family.

However, if those proceedings are causing you some trouble, I’m here to help. For instance, these are among the most common reasons you may need to seek the help of a qualified estate litigation attorney:

  • Invalid or outdated paperwork
  • Unclear or poorly worded estate planning documents
  • General disagreements between family members and/or beneficiaries
  • Debts owed to creditors
  • Suspicions of the decedent being manipulated or coerced into designing their estate plan the way they did

If such a complication is putting unnecessary strain on your situation, don’t wait to get the legal support you need.

Simplify the estate administration process

Contact me

Estate Planning Terms, Defined

Correctly handling your loved one’s will or trust is especially difficult when you’re being bombarded with a lot of unfamiliar legal terminology. Let’s simplify things by defining some of the terms you’re most likely to hear throughout this process:

  • Estate Plan: Contrary to popular belief, an estate plan isn’t just a will or trust. It’s a combination of any and all documents necessary to safeguard a person’s assets, property, minor children, business, and/or any other components that make up their legacy.
  • Will: A will is the most common estate planning tool because it is generally the least expensive document to establish up front. However, it can cause complications down the road because it must go through the probate process.
  • Probate: This is the (somewhat costly) process of carrying out the wishes outlined in a person’s will.
  • Executor: This is the title given to the person responsible for leading the probate process. If the decedent (the person who passed away) didn’t declare an executor, the state of California will decide how to proceed.
  • Revocable Living Trust: Much like a will, a trust allows a person to declare their wishes regarding their property, assets, minor children, business, and more. The key difference — a trust costs a little more up front because (if done right), it skips the probate process.
  • Trust Administration: If your loved one had a trust rather than a will, this is the term likely to be used in reference to distributing their assets.
  • Trustee: A trustee is the person who handles the trust administration process.
  • Estate Litigation: Estate litigation is what happens when there’s conflict among the people trying to distribute the assets of the decedent. In other words, if you can’t agree on how to properly carry out their estate, an estate litigation attorney (like myself) can take the matter to court.

Of course, this is not a comprehensive list of probate and estate-related terms. However, it is my hope that this cheat sheet will help you gain a fuller understanding of your situation. Still, I strongly encourage you to give my office a call to get the representation and support you need through the probate, estate, and/or litigation process.

Resolving Your Will, Trust, or Estate Dispute in San Diego

Even the best laid estate plans can lead to complications and disputes among heirs, beneficiaries, and debt collectors. If you’re having trouble administering a loved one’s will or trust, give my law office a call. For more than 30 years, I have successfully guided people throughout San Diego County on these matters.