Antonoplos & Associates Probate Litigation Practice offers clients a team of seasoned probate litigation attorneys widely recognized as being among the most skilled and knowledgeable probate litigation attorneys in the Washington, D.C. Whether you are contesting a will, seeking the removal of a personal representative or other estate fiduciary, or contesting an intestate estate, or seeking to have a will admitted to probate, Antonoplos & Associates experienced team of probate attorneys have the experience and expertise to represent your interests.
Antonoplos & Associates team of probate litigation attorneys is composed of seasoned litigators, who specialize in probate and estates litigation, with years of experience representing clients in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia Probate Court. Our probate attorneys routinely represent clients in litigation involving general probate litigation, caveat actions, intestate estate disputes, petitions to have wills admitted to probate as well as suits to remove Personal Representatives, and other fiduciaries and suits to establish beneficial interest.
We routinely represent probate clients concerning:
- Petitions to Have Wills Admitted to Probate
- Suits to Establish Beneficial Interest In an Estate
- Litigation Involving Forged Wills (Caveat Actions)
- Litigation of Disputes Among Beneficiaries
- Suits to Remove Personal Representatives and Other Estate Fiduciaries
- Litigation of Disputes Between Beneficiaries & Estate Fiduciaries
- Litigation of Intestate Estates
- Partition Actions
- Suits for Accounting & Auditor Master Review
Common Probate Litigation Questions:
What is a Will?
A will is a legal document that designates the beneficiaries of an estate, as well as how and when the beneficiaries will receive their inheritance. Think of it as a set of instructions to the probate court. When a person dies, their estate goes through a process called probate. If no will is present, the decedent’s assets will be distributed according to laws of intestacy for each jurisdiction where they have assets. If there is no will, a person dies “intestate,” meaning that the probate court will follow the jurisdictions intestacy law to distribute the decedent’s assets to the appropriate heirs. When a person dies intestate, the assets will first be distributed to the decedent’s spouse, if living, or to the decedent’s children. If the decedent has no surviving spouse or children, the probate court will look for surviving parents and siblings. The probate court will conduct a search for all eligible heirs.
What is Probate?
Probate is a court-supervised process for determining the distribution of the decedent’s assets upon death. Simply put it is the legal process for settling the affairs and transferring the assets of the decedent to their heirs. At issue are the decedent’s debts, estate taxes, creditor claims, and claims of the surviving family members. We treat probate matters with compassion and sensitivity. Typically, probate litigation includes determining the validity, meaning, construction and administration of a will or a trust. Disputes arise as to who holds claim to the assets involved with the will or trust: creditors, surviving spouses and surviving children. Challenges that arise in probate litigation include:
- Breach of Fiduciary Duty
- Trust Litigation
- Challenges to Surviving Spouse’s Rights
- Joint Bank Accounts
- Guardianship Litigation
- Forgery Claims
- Elder Abuse Claims
What Can Make a Will Invalid?
There are several reasons that a will or trust may be deemed invalid, including:
- The will/trust was not executed in accordance with District of Columbia law. Under District of Columbia law, a person aged 18 or older who is of sound mind may execute a will. The will must be executed without undue influence, it must be in writing, and it must be witnessed by two individuals.
- The decedent lacked capacity to understand and enact the will/trust. Sometimes a person becomes too frail or disoriented to mentally understand the implications of their actions. If a person signs a will or trust while very sick or without the ability to understand the implications of their actions, the will at hand may be deemed invalid due to the decedent’s lack of capacity at the time of the signing.
Someone exerted undue influence over the decedent when constructing the will/trust. When people age or become ill, they often become dependent on the assistance of others. People who are in a vulnerable state may be open to being unreasonably influenced by a person who does not have their best interests at heart. In such situations, a person may be coerced to sign a will that does not reflect their desired distribution of assets, but instead reflects the desire of the person who exerted the influence. An end-of-life caregiver, a new girlfriend or boyfriend, assisted living or nursing home staff member, or anyone else in a position of trust may be able to exert undue influence over an elderly or infirm person.