Estate Litigation Attorneys in Albany, Oregon
When a loved one passes away, we experience a complex set of emotions trying to cope with this new loss. Eventually, however, the details of their estate plan must be addressed, and in many cases, this can be a difficult process — especially if you believe there are grounds for contesting a will or trust.
According to a 2021 Gallup poll, only 46% of Americans have a will in place, and even among this group, there are many wills that are inaccurate, poorly written, or outdated. If you have a will or trust contest and would like to speak with an estate litigation attorney, reach out to us at Felling & Reid, LLC in Albany, Oregon. From our offices, we’re able to serve clients throughout Polk, Lincoln, Marion, Benton, and Linn counties.
Common Estate Disputes
Estate disputes are very common when trying to work through a will or trust of someone who’s passed away. Even if the deceased left a well-written will, there can still be room for misinterpretations. Since your loved one is no longer there to make their wishes known, these issues will have to be resolved by the executor, heirs, and court.
One common concern about estate plans is that the testator had a lack of mental capacity when drafting the will. This may have happened unintentionally, but if you are worried that they were not mentally capable of making these decisions when the will was written, you may have grounds to contest it.
Another concern for heirs and beneficiaries is that the testator was under duress in drafting the estate plan. In these cases, you may have had an ill-intentioned family member attempting to influence the writing of the will. If this is the case, you may have a fraud claim.
Wills and trusts should only be written by those who are of sound mind and body and who fully understand what they are doing. Unfortunately, some people may try to take advantage of wealthy heirs — especially if they’re older — by pressuring them to include or not include certain provisions in their will.
Lastly, beneficiaries and family members may have concerns about the actions of the executor or administrator. If you believe an executor breached their fiduciary duties, you may be able to take your concerns to a judge who can reassign this role. Any administrator is expected to faithfully execute the plan and be honest about all fiduciary responsibilities.
Estate Administration Process
Understanding the basics of estate planning administration can help if you need to pursue a probate dispute, but this will vary depending on whether the deceased left a will or not. If there is a will, there should be a named executor, and this person is responsible for administering the will with the help of the courts.
If there was no will, a judge will assign an administrator, and this is usually a close family member such as a surviving spouse or adult child. In most cases, the will must go through the process of probate in which the contents are “proved” in court.
The executor is responsible for locating and inventorying all assets, contacting creditors, paying off debts, notifying all beneficiaries, and staying in communication with a judge. If you’ve found yourself in this role and have any concerns or if someone else is contesting the will, it can be extremely helpful to work with an estate litigation attorney.
Who Can Contest a Will in Oregon?
As long as you’re considered an “interested party,” you can challenge a will. In Oregon, this means that you’re either a named beneficiary, a named beneficiary in a previous will (for example, someone who used to be named in a will but whose name was excluded from the new version, or someone whose share of assets was markedly decreased), or someone who would be in line to receive assets if the deceased died intestate (without a will) such as a child or spouse.
Grounds for Contesting a Will in Oregon
To legally contest a will, you must show that you have “grounds,” and this means that there’s a legal reason the will should be invalidated. This could be proving that the testator was not of sound mind and body when they wrote the will, and evidence from a doctor's diagnosis may help this case. It may also mean that someone committed fraud by illegally influencing the testator into writing a will that didn’t follow their true wishes. There could also be administrative reasons to invalidate a will such as it not having two witnesses or lacking notarization.
Estate Litigation Attorneys Serving
If you’re in the Albany, Oregon, area and would like to speak with an experienced attorney about a will or trust dispute, call us at Felling & Reid, LLC. Contesting an estate plan can be a delicate and complicated process, but we have the knowledge and skills to help you see it through till the end.