Not everyone who has been named as a fiduciary representative for a friend or family member’s estate in Chicago needs the counsel of a lawyer. Even fewer require the services of a litigation attorney. But there are a few instances when you need to retain the expertise of a lawyer who is not only skilled in estate planning, wills and trusts, but who is also a litigation attorney. Here are three situations in which you’ll want to contact a litigation attorney in Chicago.
A Litigation Attorney In Chicago Is Essential If…
1. There’s Conflict Over The Will. The biggest reason for litigation involving a will or estate comes from disgruntled heirs. Sometimes there is no will to speak of. Other times there is a will but the heirs aren’t happy with it. Still other times, the heirs have a problem with the executor of the will. Any one of the instances can result in the fiduciary agent, or executor, becoming involved in a lawsuit.
If you think the heirs are going to be unhappy with you or the provisions of the will, you will want to consult an attorney right away. Whether or not it leads to litigation may need to be seen, but by speaking with an attorney at the soonest possible moment, you can position and protect yourself from being blindsided by a lawsuit.
2. You Goofed. Sometimes lawsuits are filed when the fiduciary agent messes up. As fiduciary you have certain responsibilities to the estate and the court. If you neglect these duties or don’t perform them correctly, you open yourself up to personal liability and may find yourself on the defending end of a lawsuit. If you know you’ve made a mistake contact a litigation attorney at Peck Ritchey, LLC immediately. It’s possible the mistake can be easily rectified without a lawsuit being filed. We can help get you back on track and managing your duties properly.
If you’re unsure of how to fulfill your duties, contact us. We can advise and guide you through the process to ensure you are acting within the confines of the law and performing your duties as intended.
3. You’ve Already Been Named In A Lawsuit. If you’ve already been named in a lawsuit you need to find a litigation attorney as soon as possible. The attorney will work to protect your rights and interests and help you get through the lawsuit with as little damage as possible. At Peck Ritchey we try to minimize litigation at all costs, but if attempts at negotiating a settlement fail, we are prepared to vigorously defend you in a court of law.
At Peck Ritchey, LLC we represent families and individuals who are involved in the litigation of contested wills, trusts, and guardianships. Not only do we represent fiduciaries, we can also advise them and help them fulfill their responsibilities. Peck Ritchey also administers estates, acting as the fiduciary or executor of an estate. To learn more about our fiduciary or estate planning services or to speak with a litigation attorney in Chicago, contact us at 855-328-5787.
Estate litigation is one of the most common types of litigation a Chicago elder law firm will see. Disagreements over the division of wealth or prized possessions can tear even the closest family apart. But these disagreements can be avoided with a little advance planning. A simple will can stop many types of litigation in Chicago from ever starting. While you can never predict estate litigation, you can minimize the likelihood of your will or estate being taken to court by incorporating these tips into your will.
7 Ways To Avoid Estate Litigation In Chicago
1. Keep things equal. The biggest trigger for familial litigation in Chicago is when the children of the decedent are treated unequally. If you want to avoid having your will contested, divide your assets equally among your children. Do not favor one over the other for any reason, including stepchildren. In the eyes of the law, all children, stepchildren or not, have equal right to the inheritance. If you’ve decided to disinherit a child for some reason or another, include that in legal documents or that child will be able to make a claim to your property and assets.
2. Give away prized possessions ahead of time. The easiest way to prevent arguments from breaking out over who gets mom’s fine china or dad’s antique car are to give those possessions to their intended recipients while you’re still alive and able to voice your wishes. If you want certain things to go to certain heirs after you pass, include an inventory of the items along with your wishes for who gets what.
3. Record loans given out. If you have given one child a loan and not another, record it. Spell out the terms of the loan – is the child expected to pay it back, will it be deducted from their inheritance amount or will it be forgiven upon your death? Decide on the terms and include that with your legal documents.
4. Use formal agreements to transfer assets. Trusts and contracts are useful tools to transfer assets to an heir and avoid litigation. Chicago families who have businesses they want to pass on to a specific child often use contract of sale to do so. Contracts of law that are completed when you’re alive are hard to challenge and offer solid proof of your wishes.
Trusts are used in estate plans to transfer real property. A trust allows you to live on the property for a set period of time after which ownership is transferred to the heir you’ve designated. A trust can be enacted any time, even when you’re still alive.
5. Get a doctor’s note. The most common argument we hear in estate litigation in Chicago is that the parent was not of sound mind when he or she made their will or signed their legal documents. The best way to stop this argument in its tracks is to have your attending physician and a psychiatrist sign off on your physical and mental health at the time that you create or sign your will.
6. The “no-contest” clause. If you know that someone will be unhappy with your will and may try to challenge it, add a no-contest clause. These clauses often stop litigation before it starts because they state that any beneficiary who contests the will forfeits his or her interests in it. This is a very effective tool to prevent estate litigation in Chicago, particularly if the expected troublemaker is getting something he or she really wants.
7. Don’t wait. Draw up a will now. Do it while you’re healthy and aware of what your wishes are. If you wait until you’re ill, you are asking for litigation. Someone is certain to argue that your illness made you confused and you didn’t understand what you were doing or they can argue that you were coerced by another beneficiary into doing their bidding. What’s even worse? If you wait too long to draw up your will these things may become true. You don’t want to be in a situation where you could be coerced into doing something you don’t want to do. Get a will drawn up now and prevent the drama before it starts.
Contact the elder law attorneys at Peck Ritchey for assistance in drawing up a will or designing an estate plan. We can help you design a plan that will decrease the likelihood of litigation in Chicago and ensure your wishes are fulfilled.
If someone you love passes away and you discover to your surprise that you’ve been left out of the will, you may be able to contest it based on any one of several valid issues. Whether you feel it was an honest oversight or you feel that someone used undue pressure against your loved one to change their will before they passed away, meeting with litigation attorneys in Chicago is a good first step. They can review the will and determine how to go about contesting it in court. There are several reasons why probate litigation attorneys might dispute these documents, including improper execution or coercion of the deceased. These attorneys can also represent you as an heir of someone who has passed away without a will, which unfortunately often leads to squabbles between relatives. If you and other potential heirs can’t agree, things could turn into a lengthy battle in probate court, giving rise to animosity and damaged relationships. The goal of probate litigation attorneys in Chicago is to quickly resolve the situation with minimal fuss. Some of the most common reasons to contest someone’s will include:
Documents That Weren’t Prepared Properly
If the will wasn’t prepared in accordance with Illinois state inheritance laws, it may be invalid. One common mistake is not having it properly witnessed and signed by two witnesses who not only saw the writer sign, but also saw each other sign. In other words, both the individual and his or her two witnesses should be in the same room at the same time when signing. In this case, litigation attorneys in Chicago may be able to resolve the issue relatively quickly.
The Decedent Didn’t Have Testamentary Capacity
“Testamentary capacity” is simply the ability of the person writing the will to rightly understand what their estate and any assets are worth and truly understand the ramifications of how they are disposing of it. Litigation attorneys in Chicago may contest the document on a variety of grounds, including whether or not the deceased was capable of realizing the unintended results of excluding specific individuals from the estate. Because each person has their own opinion about whether another person should have inherited, contesting the will on these grounds can be a complex process.
The Decedent Was Under Extreme Duress
Our Chicago litigation attorneys have seen many situations where a frail or ailing individual has been pressured to alter their will by an unscrupulous relative or friend. In some cases, the pressure is severe enough to be considered undue influence, particularly when the document goes against the individual’s stated wishes. There is a clear burden to prove that the deceased was pressured before they died in a manner that went beyond nagging. In court, you’ll generally need to provide evidence and reliable testimony that the accused person used extreme measures such as isolating the individual, stealing an earlier version of the will, physical abuse or having the document prepared by their own attorney rather than the decedent’s lawyer. Peck Ritchey’s litigation attorneys can review your case and determine whether you have a valid claim to contest the will.
The Will Was The Result Of Fraud
Do you believe your loved one was tricked into signing a will that he didn’t understand? Are you afraid that he might have signed a will not realizing what he were signing? If so, the courts shouldn’t accept the document because it is fraudulent. Manipulative relatives sometimes coerce elderly individuals who are easily confused in order to make sure they aren’t left out of the will or to increase their share of the estate. In other situations, an entirely new will may be prepared without the elderly individual’s knowledge or understanding and given to the individual, who is told that it is a power of attorney, advance directive or some other legal document. A forged signature is another way that a dishonest heir can try to inherit, although this does require two others to be complicit as witnesses. If your loved one signed a will believing it was something else entirely or you believe her signature was forged, Peck Ritchey’s litigation attorneys in Chicago can get to the heart of the matter for you.
Consult With Our Litigation Attorneys in Chicago
If you’ve been wrongly excluded from the last will and testament of someone you believe intended to leave you an inheritance, contact our office today for a free consultation. Our probate litigation attorneys in Chicago can determine the nature of your claim and guide you through the court proceedings, protecting your rights as an heir.
Most people can become intimidated the first time they consider consulting with an attorney, especially when the person across the court room is your family. You may not know the criteria to look for to ensure you are hiring an experienced elder law attorney. Always spend time doing your homework, ask for referrals from the Chicago or Illinois Bar Association, check out their website, and ask for a free consultation to ensure you’re a good fit. If things turn ugly in a probate, will, trust, guardianship or estate matter, an experienced will and trust litigation lawyer is a must. Some lawyers have more experience than others in the courtroom, and this experience will be a big asset in your case when they argue for your rights.
The guidance you can get from guardianship lawyers, elder law and probate attorneys can ease the overwhelming tension of a family dispute. Please consider these factors when deciding to retain counsel.
Show me the Money
If there’s the potential for significant amounts of money to change hands, it’s likely that one or both parties will resist settling things out of court. Someone will take the problem before a judge, hoping to maximize their inheritance or monetary compensation and what they feel they deserve – rather than what the drafter of the will or trust intended. In order to ensure your interests are represented and properly communicated according to Illinois law, hire an estate litigation lawyer.
Reading Between the Lines
Has someone disputed a will in which you are entitled to a portion of the estate? Is a power of attorney for health care or property being misused in order to benefit the agent rather than the elderly person? Whatever the case, seek out an elder law lawyer with litigation experience to clarify, defend or refute the interpretation of the documents in question.
Protect YOUR Interests
The minute you learn any other party has retained an estate litigator, or filed anything in Court, you should start looking for a will and trust litigation lawyer yourself. Don’t wait to try and defend yourself. Although you think you may be saving money on legal fees, waiting until the case becomes messy to ask for help may result in the attorney being unable to help you or legal fees mounting more rapidly as drastic measures must be taken. The earlier you hire your own elder law attorney, the more time they will have to properly prepare to defend your case.
Confidence in the Courtroom
Sometimes you just know in your gut that the dispute you’re involved in won’t be resolved easily. In most legal situations, you’ll probably feel a bit overwhelmed standing in front of a judge or working your way through the legal jargon; that’s natural. After all, you didn’t attend years of law school and you don’t have the experience of a practiced will and trust litigation lawyer. Always ensure that the elder law attorney you are hiring has litigation experience in the probate and guardianship courts. Ask if they know the judge that has been assigned to your case, the opposing counsel or if they have argued in both the state and federal courts.
Remember, the only reliable legal advice you can get isn’t through the grapevine or the Internet, but by consulting an attorney yourself.