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Richard Hellerman
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Probate Litigation

In Chicago when someone passes away and leaves a last will and testament, the estate must go through a process that is called probate. The process is managed by the person named by the deceased as the executor. It involves winding up estate and ultimately distributing the assets to the beneficiaries that the decedent named in his or her will. Unfortunately, probate does not always go as planned. Sometimes disputes develop. Such disputes, referred to as probate litigation, involve beneficiaries, errands, fiduciaries, creditors, or any other interested party. Before an estate can be closed and assets distributed to beneficiaries, all disputes over the estate must be resolved. If you are concerned about a dispute over an estate, it is important that you are represented by an experienced Chicago probate litigation lawyer who will ensure that your interests are protected.

Common Reasons for Probate Litigation

Will contest. One of the most common reasons for probate litigation is a dispute over the validity of a will. An interested party may claim that the will was fraudulent, that the will was not properly executed, that a testator did not have the capacity to execute the will, or that the testator was subject to undue influence. If the will is not valid, it cannot be probated. The judge will not allow an estate to be settled based on an invalid well.

Breach of fiduciary duty. An estate may have one or more fiduciaries. A fiduciary is someone who is charged with taking care of the interests of someone else. The executor is a fiduciary. An estate may have other fiduciaries such as a trustee, an attorney, or a financial advisor. It is the job of the fiduciary to do what is in the best interest of that person. If a fiduciary violates his or her duty, there would be a basis for probate litigation.

Beneficiary claims. Probate litigation may develop because of beneficiary disputes. A beneficiary is anyone who is named in the will. A beneficiary may be upset that he or she is not getting a larger share of the estate. A beneficiary may be bothered that he or she is not getting a particular asset from the deceased. As a Chicago probate litigation attorney can explain, there are a variety of reasons that a beneficiary may be angry or upset about an estate. However, being upset about the terms of a will without any evidence that the will is not valid is not enough for a successful challenge to the terms of a will.

Who may Initiate Probate Litigation

While anyone can be upset about the terms of a will, only certain people have the legal right to initiate probably litigation. Under Illinois law only interested parties have the right to challenge a will and initiate litigation related to a will. Interested parties include the beneficiaries named in the will or someone who was a beneficiary under a prior will. Other interested parties include legal heirs. A legal heir is someone who would inherit a portion of an estate in the absence of a will.

It is important to understand that just because someone has the legal right to initiate a challenge to a will or initiate litigation related to an estate does not mean that that person has a valid reason to initiate probate litigation. If you feel that there are valid grounds to initiate a probate dispute, contact a skilled probate litigation attorney in Chicago who will listen to your concerns and who will ensure that your legal rights are protected.

Avoiding Probate Litigation

If you are concerned that someone may challenge your will and delay probate, there are strategies that will reduce the possibility that there will be probate litigation or that probate litigation will be successful. The most important way is to make sure that your will is drafted in a manner such that your wishes are clear. It is also critical that your will is drafted and executed in a manner that is consistent with Illinois law. Furthermore, it is important that you review your will and other estate planning documents to make sure that they remain consistent with your wishes in light of family and financial changes that may occur over the years.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

Probate litigation does not only refer to litigation that resolves disputes related to wills. Probate litigation also refers to litigation that resolves other types of estate and family relationship disputes such as disagreements related to trusts, advance health care directives, guardianships, and conservatorships. The probate litigation attorneys serving Chicago at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates are experienced in estate litigation and have worked extensively in Illinois courts. We will help you make the process as painless as possible under the circumstances. Contact us at 855-454-5529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve individuals throughout Chicago.

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