As many residents of Northern New Jersey may unfortunately know, losing a loved one is never easy. Matters can be made worse, however, if the deceased's heirs are fighting over the terms or validity of the decedent's will or trust. Also, issues could arise with regards to how the executor of the estate is carrying out his or her duties. All of this can lead to estate litigation. And, as laws and society change, the picture of what estate litigation looks like may also change.
First, it is possible that there may be an uptick in estate litigation due to a growing population, wherein more people die each year. Also, there has been an increase in the amount of money being inherited. With more money at stake comes more disagreements between heirs. In addition, the laws surrounding estate planning have been changing in recent years, opening the door for more types of clashes between heirs.
Arbitration clauses in estate planning documents may also be the source of estate litigation. Many wills and trusts these days have provisions that mandate that disputes be arbitrated, and that the results of that arbitration will be binding. Such provisions are often litigated. Some people believe they run afoul of public policy. Some people believe they are prohibited under the Uniform Trust Code and laws in some states. And, some believe that beneficiaries who had no say when it came to including such provisions in a will or trust should not be bound by such provisions.
Traditionally, wills and trusts often include no-contest provisions. Increasingly, however, these provisions have been expanding to cover beneficiary or joint-account designations, claims that the trustee or executor breached his or her fiduciary duties and impediments of estate administration. Some people believes that the expansion of such provisions runs afoul of public policy, case law and the UTC. As more estate planning documents with broad no-contest provisions go through litigation, new case law will be established with regards to the enforcement of such provisions.
These are only a few ways that estate litigation may become more prolific in years to come. Since the laws regarding estate contests are always changing, it is important that those who want more information regarding estate litigation seek the legal assistance they need to better understand their rights.
Source: WealthManagement.com, "Four Estate Litigation Predictions for 2018," Will Sleeth, Feb. 27, 2018