Trust Litigation for Undue Influence: Dealing with Coersion of Kids on a Parent

Trust litigation can be a challenging process when it involves family members attempting to gain a trust without consent of others in the family. This can be a scenario that’s devastating to you if you have a sibling who’s done this without letting you know as means of gaining access to a parent’s assets. It’s a situation we’ve seen many times with our clients at Ford + Bergner LLP, and we can help you through similar situations.

But different scenarios might arise when this happens that could create complex legal territory to tread on. It’s why you should always handle trust litigation through an experienced lawyer who has years of experience dealing with estate issues like guardianship, probate, or trusts.

What Are Typical Scenarios in Undue Influence?

Most typically, it’s a brother, sister, or other relative who happens to be taking care of an aging parent who convinces the parent to execute a trust. They may convince the parent that they deserve complete control of all assets since they’re putting in full-time as a personal caretaker. This may not necessarily be done willfully by the parent if it’s common knowledge that the parent is suffering from senility.

In this scenario, there could be some kind of threat by the sibling against the parent if they don’t start the trust. We’ve seen cases where this is proven, and it’s never pleasant. However, the parent might have done it so they could continue to have the sibling care for them. In those threat instances, the sibling might threaten to walk away as caregiver if the parent doesn’t start a trust in their name.

Proving these cases requires considerable evidence and legal preparation by us. We’ll help determine if that trust in question can be challenged under a specific category. While undue influence is one, we can also challenge a trust based on fraud, ones created while under duress, or based squarely on the parent not being mentally fit.

Contact us at Ford + Bergner LLP so we can help you if you think a trust started by a sibling should be challenged due to undue influence. We’ll help you step by step through the process by acquiring the proper evidence so you have a strong case.

How Should You Prepare For Your Meeting With A Potential Probate Attorney?

The death of someone you love is always a difficult and painful time in your life. Through all of the other processes you have to go through, you also have to deal with the legal processes and procedures. Management of assets, such as properties and estate can always be a difficult task to face, especially under circumstances like this one. Management needs to be handled in a professional and careful manner.

So, it is a wise choice to hire a probate attorney who will be able to complete the dispersal of the estate. From where you stand, the process may seem complicated and difficult, buy an attorney with experience can make sure the process will be smooth and pain f

What To Ask A Probate Attorney

  • Ask about the level of experience and the area of specialty.
  • Ask what papers and documents you will need to bring with you when you have your consultation.
  • Ask if there are any problems that may occur during the process.
  • Ask the attorney about the kind of probate cases he or she has handled.
  • Ask about past clients.
  • Ask about the legal fees.
  • Ask about the choice of communication methods.

Meeting with a probate attorney can be a bit nerve-wrecking and overwhelming. It can be very easy to forget to take your necessary documents with you, and to ask questions you wanted answered. If it is your first meeting or your third meeting with a probate attorney, you can write down a list of questions that you would like to address during your meeting. When you write down your questions and bring them with you, you will have everything in front of you.

A main goal at your consultation meeting is to be able to determine if you are going to hire the probate attorney sitting in front of you. When you take time to be prepared for your meeting, you will assure yourself that you are going into the meeting with the right mind frame and the right paperwork to give the attorney everything he or she needs to start working on your case.

If you are looking for an probate attorney to help ease your family members pain by dealing with the legal complications, contact us.

Wills and Estate Advice: How Can You Coordinate Your Estate Planning with Other People’s Plans?

The Wall Street Journal recently came out with an informative article entitled, “Five Reasons for Parents to Reveal Estate Plans.”

All of the reasons discussed in the article are important to consider as you work on your estate planning. In addition to possibly preparing your children for disappointments, there are also other practical reasons for sharing your estate plan, including receiving invaluable feedback from your children and also coordinating your plan to better accommodate their estate plans, financial situation and personal lifestyle.

Coordinating your estate plan with other people

When it comes to writing up wills and other estate documents, it could be beneficial for you and your loved ones to all be on the same page. This includes not only your children but also other family members and perhaps close friends and other trusted beneficiaries.

One relatively obvious example is if you have young kids and are considering who would be their guardians should you pass away. You need to know if the people you name as potential guardians have the means and ability to raise your kids. There might also be reciprocity, where you’re named as potential guardians for their kids. In this kind of situation, it could be a good idea to sit together and coordinate at least this aspect of your estate plans.

Other elements of coordination could include various trusts. You need to work with your children and other beneficiaries to determine what trust(s) would be most beneficial for all of you when it comes to tax purposes and any financial problems you currently have. This is especially true if you have a rather complex estate in which relatives might be inheriting property jointly.

Don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss these issues. Estate planning should ideally occur with the input of trusted people and in coordination with their own plans. An experienced estate attorney can provide you with invaluable advice and offer you powerful solutions tailored to your personal circumstances.

Under estate law, are you liable for your parents’ debts?

Are your parents in debt?

Statistics reported by show that from the early 1990s onwards, seniors have made up an increasing percentage of people who file for bankruptcy. Medical expenses, job loss and poor investment decisions are among the problems that can leave people in debt; and the recession has cut into many people’s retirement savings.

One of the concerns you may have if you’re inheriting money and various assets from your parents is whether the law also requires you to take on their debt.

Are you on the hook for parental debt?

In general, you can’t personally be held liable for your parents debts. If the debts are enormous, you may get harassed by very aggressive creditors (in which case, you’d need to consult with an attorney on what to do to get them off your back). But in most cases, the only way in which you’ll be affected is that the debts would have to be paid out of your parents’ estate.

Certain assets, such as IRAs, could be exempt from creditors. But if your parents left you their home, for example, creditors might try to seize it. Every asset that creditors successfully claim from the estate means that there’s less for you and any other beneficiaries.

When could you be held responsible?

Sometimes, you may be directly on the hook for parental debt. If you cosigned on any loans with your parents or held any account jointly with them, you’ve likely taken on yourself the obligation to pay off those debts; it’s important to read the fine print of any loan or account you’re a part of.

Another situation to consider is if you’re the executor of your parents’ estate, and you fail to notify creditors and act to pay off the debts using the assets in the estate; in that case, you wouldn’t be living up to your obligations as an executor and might face legal and financial troubles.

Parents and children will hopefully have an honest conversation about any debts that are likely to remain at the time of the parents’ death. Contact us for further advice on how to handle debts as part of your estate planning and discuss possible ways to shield assets from creditors.

Can Your Child’s Student Loan Debts Turn Your Estate Planning Upside Down?

As he approaches 60, Mason’s dreams of retirement have been shattered. He’s done the math, and he will have dependent children living under his roof until he is almost 70 years old.

A recent article from CNN Money shares the story of the man described here. He and his wife suffered the death of their 27-year-old daughter. After their death, they became guardians to her three children, who were all under the age of 10 at the time. On top of that, they’ve also been struggling with the repayment of her student loan debts.

When their daughter started nursing school, her parents had been cosigners on loans taken from private lenders. The loans amounted to $100,000; and when the creditors started going after them following their daughter’s death, they also needed to deal with late fees and steep interest rates. These troubles piled on the emotional devastation following their daughter’s death and the financial difficulties of supporting three grandchildren.

They have since managed to work out a more favorable repayment arrangement with some of the private lenders; but money is still a struggle, and they’ve needed to do away with their retirement plans. Their estate planning also requires a complete overhaul.

What to consider before becoming a cosigner

For one thing, you need to look at the loan forgiveness terms any time you become a cosigner. For student loans, for example, private lenders aren’t obligated to negotiate with you; they could demand all the money back. Even if your adult child is still alive, you may still be on the hook for the debts. For instance, if your child files for bankruptcy, creditors may go after you. This is especially true if your child files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy; Chapter 13 bankruptcy may offer you a stay from creditors, but it isn’t guaranteed.

Compared to private loans, a student loan from the government generally offers more favorable terms for forgiveness and repayment (especially in situations involving the death of you or your child). But it’s critical that you read the fine print and figure out how much of an obligation to repay the debts you’d face as a cosigner. For example, when it comes to student loans, who is listed as the legal borrower on the agreement – you or your child?

The same holds true for any loan where you’re a cosigner. Also, don’t forget situations where you’re a guarantor, backing someone up by agreeing to pay off a debt if the other person is unable to.

It’s crucial that you consider your status as a cosigner or guarantor when working on your estate planning. When you contact us, we can give you advice about protecting assets from creditors and also making financial decisions that are most likely to benefit you and your loved ones in the long run.

Guardianship Litigation Can Be Challenging, But Sometimes It Is Necessary

Many people have their struggles with how they are going to help an aging family member or an aging friend or neighbor who can no longer care for himself or herself, in terms of the personal welfare and financial decisions. Many people want to offer their assistance, but they may be unfamiliar on how to get the legal authority to make it happen.

The person who may need the help may have not planned ahead by signing any kind of documents that gives someone else the legal authority. On the other hand, legal documents could have been signed, but it may list someone else as a potential authority. Guardianship gives someone the legal right to make key decisions for that person you love.

If there is an issue with other family members not properly taking care of the loved one, the person is not being properly cared for at a facility, or the alleged incapacitated person doesn’t want to have a guardian, guardianship litigation will occur at the beginning of the guardianship. The adult may not have any interest or willingness to become a Ward of the state, and that person has a legal right to fight the decision. Sometimes, you will find someone who is not really looking out for the person, but they may want to do it for their own sake.

Guardianship and probate matters are not things that should be taken lightly. These matters are constantly progressing, and they can be very complicated. It is critical to have someone on your side who will be extremely focused on the matter. You will need someone who understands everything of the matter, including the seriousness.

It is very important that family members, friends, or care providers to at least try to attempt to work with someone who is incapacitated. The person should be protected from being financially exploited and abuse. If an adult doesn’t think he or she needs guardianship, there may be resistance and refusal. Guardianship may be necessary if you feel that the person you want to help could do physical harm to himself or herself, as well as financial harm.

If you are struggling with finding an answer to your situation, there are people who can help you. Contact us, and you will not have to do this alone. We can give you the help you need.

When your children aren’t receiving equal inheritance: Advice on soothing feelings and reducing the risk of estate litigation

As you work on your estate planning, one of the decisions you may make is to leave unequal portions of your estate to your child beneficiaries. Maybe you have a good reasons for doing so. However, your children may react to your decision with hurt and anger.

A recent article from Daily Finance mentions how adult children could interpret unequal inheritance as a sign that you also love them unequally. Some might choose to pursue estate litigation contesting your will or other estate documents. But even if they don’t, they might be bitterly hurt and also resentful of siblings who inherited more.

The following is some advice for reducing the chances of pain, rancor, and possible litigation:

Give your decisions careful consideration. If you’re thinking about distributing your estate unequally among your kids, make sure you have good reasons for doing so. Don’t act out of spite or impulsiveness (for example, in angry, knee-jerk reaction to a fight you may have had with one of your children).

Explain your decision to your children. Ideally, you’ll discuss your estate planning with your children when you’re still alive and in possession of full mental capacities. Even if it’s a painful subject, try to discuss your reasoning with them. In some situations, your reasons may be more understandable; for example, you might be leaving more money to an adult child who has serious medical problems and, in consequence, more expenses. In other cases, the reasons may be less acceptable to your children; you may have to prepare yourself for some fraught conversations.

Make your explanations as loving as possible. When you discuss your estate planning with your kids, keep the conversation as gentle and loving as possible. Don’t inject unnecessary rancor into it. You can also leave each child a note after your death, not only explaining your decision but also reaffirming your love for them and the fact that your decision isn’t based on favoritism.

Make your estate documents ironclad. To reduce the chances of a dispute after your death, make sure your will and other estate documents are written in an airtight and clear way, reflecting your wishes unambiguously.

When you contact us to discuss your estate planning, we will help you with every part of the process, including giving you advice on how to consider and handle a situation involving unequal inheritance. With the assistance of an experienced estate attorney, you’re more likely to succeed in having your wishes respected without alienating your child beneficiaries.