Dunlap Probate Litigation Attorneys
Experienced will and estate litigators in Tennessee
Nobody wants to litigate over a loved one’s estate but sometimes probate litigation is the only way to obtain a just result – and to respect the true intent of the person writing the will. Sometimes, there are legitimate concerns about the testator’s mental abilities when a will was created. There may be some relatives who unduly pressure a testator. Many testators do change their minds and update their wills. Circumstances may prevent a testator’s intent from being carried out because he/she never wrote a will, the assets were transferred before death, or a named executor dies first.
Our experienced Dunlap probate trial lawyers have the skills, experience, and resources to handle all types of probate disputes. We represent executors when relatives and others claim a will is invalid, the executor isn’t qualified, or the executor isn’t doing his/her job. We represent anyone who has a legitimate challenge to a will, a legal claim to part of the estate, or concerns about how a decedent’s estate is being handled. Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law has more than 70 years of experience trying cases before judges and juries. We’re ready to help executors of wills, administrators of intestate estates, and probate litigants assert and defend their rights.
What circumstances lead to probate disputes in Dunlap?
There are many factors that can lead someone to challenge a will or how an estate is being administered. Some of these common factors our Dunlap probation lawyers are skilled at litigating include:
- Someone who expects to be a beneficiary is not included in a will or receives less than they thought they would receive.
- Someone who wasn’t expected to receive part of the decedent’s estate is included in the will.
- One child or relative is appointed an executor when other children/relatives thought they should be appointed.
- The will failed to appoint a successor executor when the first person couldn’t perform the executor’s duties.
- Adopted children, stepchildren, children from prior marriages, and others claim they have rights to part of the estate – based on the will or the intestate laws of Tennessee.
- There’s confusion about some terms of the will.
- The decedent had a business.
- The decedent was romantically involved with someone prior to dying.
- There are prenuptial agreements or other agreements that may control the assets.
- Someone expected a specific bequest such as the family heirlooms and didn’t receive that request.
The larger the decedent’s estate, the more likely probate litigation may occur.
What are the grounds for challenging a will?
Our Dunlap probate litigation lawyers understand the unique challenges involved with contesting a will that is submitted for probate (validation). We understand what laws govern the validity of wills, what rules govern the rules for probate litigation contests, and the evidence that is generally needed to support your claim that a will is or isn’t valid.
Most will contests involve one or more of the following grounds:
- Lack of testamentary capacity. In addition to the requirement that a testator (the person who requests the will) be 18 or older, the testator must also have the “testamentary capacity” to create and sign a will. Often, testators with dementia or Alzheimer’s may not have the testamentary capacity to make a will. The key requirements for proving testamentary capacity include showing the testator:
- Knew he/she was creating a will
- Understood the natural objects of his/her bounty (who would normally receive the assets)
- Understood what assets he/she possessed
- Lack of testamentary intent. The testator should understand the document he/she is signing is his/her last will and testament.
- The use of undue influence. Some relatives may pressure a testator to leave more property to that relative than is normal. The requirements for showing undue influence include showing that:
- Someone, such as a caretaker, was in a close relationship with the testator
- The testator limited or excluded the contact other expected beneficiaries could have with the testator
- The person accused of undue influence did receive more than would be normally expected
- The testator was susceptible to influence – generally due to ill health
- Fraud or duress. Forged wills are invalid. Wills that were signed by a testator who relied on false or misleading information may be invalid especially if the person who provided the misinformation benefited. Wills that are prepared and signed by duress, the threat of force, or acts of actual force or violence will likely be invalid.
- Challenges to the will itself. Our Dunlap probate lawyers handle challenges involving complaints that the will:
- Failed to comply with the Tennessee Execution of Wills Act – such as failing to have the appropriate number of witnesses
- Was revoked, modified, or updated. A Dunlap probate judge could invalidate a will if there is a later will or if the testator purposely destroyed the will. The probate judge will consider including any codicils (partial updates) to the original will.
- Cannot be found. At Wagner & Wanger, we help personal representatives when a will cannot be found.
- Is one of many. The court has to decide which will should be validated.
Our Dunlap probate attorneys help ensure that the correct will is validated and/or that improper wills are not validated.
What other types of probate disputes do you handle?
Many of the probate litigation cases our Dunlap probate trial lawyers handle involve issues that occur after a will is approved. Some probate litigation disputes involve intestate estates (there is no valid will).
At Wagner & Wagner, we handle all types of probate contests including questions about the eligibility of an executor/administrator, whether the executor/administrator is performing his/her duties, whether claimants qualify as beneficiaries (named in a will) or heirs (entitled to benefits based on Tennessee’s intestate laws). For example, do children from prior marriages qualify?
Common probate disputes, other than will contests, include:
- The eligibility and ability of an executor administrator to act. For example, an executor may have predeceased the decedent or have dementia which raises the question – who should be the personal representative of the estate?
- Is the executor or administrator performing his/her duties? Common duties include the proper and timely:
- Collection of estate assets
- Valuation of estate assets
- Sale of estate assets
- Transfer and distribution of assets
- Payment of tax returns, creditor claims, and administrative expenses
- Filing of an inventory and/or accounting
We’ll help you identify the probate claim, determine whether the claim is valid, and present or defend the claim.
How can a Dunlap probate litigation lawyer help me?
Our probate trial lawyers will answer all your questions. Some of the key ways we work to obtain strong probate litigation results include:
- Reviewing every will and every other document that may affect the distribution of the estate assets.
- Identifying all the assets including homes, businesses, bank accounts, personal property, stocks, bonds, and other assets located in Tennessee or anywhere in the world.
- Placing a proper value on the assets with the help of financial professionals.
- Speaking with all relevant witnesses.
- Reviewing each step of the estate administration process.
- Highlighting any mistakes or poor decisions made by the executor/administrator.
- Disclosing any undue influence, fraud, duress, or other improper conduct.
- Asserting other arguments and evidence depending on the type of probate dispute.
Our probate litigation lawyers are skilled at speaking with friendly relatives, questioning contentious relatives, and presenting cases before probate judges.
Do you have a probate litigation lawyer near me?
At Wagner & Wagner, our Dunlap probate litigation lawyers meet Dunlap clients at our Chattanooga office located at 701 Market Street, Suite 310. When necessary, we do conduct video conferences by appointment.
We understand how stressful probate litigation is. In addition to fighting to ensure your rightful share, you will likely be involved in litigation with one or more relatives. We’re skilled at handling these types of disputes. We’ll calmly and clearly guide you through the probate litigation process.
Speak with a respected Dunlap probate litigation attorney now
At Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law, our Dunlap probate litigation lawyers understand the laws that govern wills, intestate succession, and all other aspects of probate litigation. We work with financial appraisers and other experts who can help support your claim. We’re skilled at questioning witnesses, cross-examining relatives, and helping you anticipate the questions you’ll be asked in court. If you or a family member have concerns about a decedent’s estate, call us or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation. We also offer legal services to physically and financially injured clients in Dunlap, Chattanooga, Cleveland, TN, and all surrounding counties.