Legal Issues After the Loss of a Loved One
We are deeply sorry for your loss and understand that you may feel overwhelmed right now. In addition to the grief that you are experiencing, you may be facing confusing legal issues. We’ve created this brief guide to help you during this difficult time. For more information, you can log onto our complete website at www.vinsko.com. If you need personal assistance or advice, please contact us by calling 570.970.9700 (Wilkes-Barre) or 215.278.4767 (Philadelphia), or by using our online contact form.
What is Probate?
Probate is the process of authenticating a Last Will and Testament of a deceased person. More broadly, it is the process of administering an estate, identifying and inventorying the deceased person’s property.
Whether a person dies with or without a will in Pennsylvania, their estate will pass into what is called probate. This legal process can involve things like:
- Proving the validity of a will
- Assembling the decedent’s assets for distribution
- Making distributions to those named in the will
- Paying back debts
- Preparing inheritance tax returns
- Addressing the breach of fiduciary duty
A representative named in the will or by the courts can administer your loved one’s estate, but it may alleviate some of your difficulties to have an attorney do it for you. A lawyer will file the inheritance tax returns, gather and distribute assets, deal with creditors and other tasks associated with probate. Your attorney will walk you through the process and the steps you need to take to get through probate quickly and with as little contention as possible.
What is Estate Litigation?
Estate Litigation is the seeking of a resolution to a legal contest relating to a deceased person’s property by judicial process.
Unfortunately, even during this most difficult time, disagreements over money and property may arise. Estate Litigation is the legal process by which an attorney finds out what is happening with the money in the estate. He/she helps family members answer questions like: Have the inheritance tax returns been filed properly and on time? Have the beneficiaries received their inheritance? Sadly, sometimes these questions are answered only in court.
What is a Will Contest?
A Will Contest is a dispute or proceeding (as a trial) begun by one who objects to probate of a will on the ground that it is invalid.
If you are concerned that your loved one was unduly influenced or not competent when writing his/her will, the will can be contested.
We sincerely hope that you do not have to engage in estate litigation or a will contest. However, if you suspect abuse or waste of an estate, contact an attorney. Never go to court alone, especially during a fraught time such as this.