North Carolina Estate Litigation Attorneys

Estate Litigation In Cary, NC

Administrators, trustees, executors, and those who are assigned a specific power of attorney have a legal obligation to do the right thing. Unfortunately, these fiduciary roles are often abused. If you or a family member has been the victim of fraud associated with one of these positions, you need a North Carolina estate litigation attorney on your side to help protect your rights.

What Does Being a Fiduciary Mean?

When someone is handling financial matters on behalf of another party, they are obligated to act in a manner which is in the best interest of the beneficiaries. A fiduciary must not use the funds of the estate they are administering for their own benefit, with the exception of approved expenses they may incur as part of administering the estate. Additionally, a fiduciary is generally required to disclose any conflicts of interest.

Types of Estate Litigation in North Carolina

If you are a beneficiary of a will or trust, or you are a family member of someone who has had a guardian appointed to them, you may need to litigate their estate. Remember, the “estate” of a person is considered their personal property — bank accounts, real estate, and other belongings. Some situations which may require your intervention include:

  • Abuse of Power of Attorney — the authority given to a person in these legal documents allows a third party to control all or part of the finances of a person or make medical decisions on their behalf. Should their power be abused, it may fall to another family member to hold them accountable for their malfeasance. This would be the time to speak with an attorney with experience in estate litigation.
  • Changing of a Will — any person is free to make changes to their will at any time. However, when the changes are coerced, they are not legal. If you suspect your loved one made a change to their will under duress, you need an attorney who is willing to investigate your suspicions and, if such coercion is found, to hold the person accountable.
  • Abuse of Trustee Authority — conflicts of interest, using funds from the trust for their own expenses, and other actions which violate the terms of the trust agreement are illegal and the trustee can be held accountable for their actions.
  • Guardianship Misuse — guardianships may be “for the person” or “for the estate of the person”. Guardians of the estate are allowed to use funds for the care of the person whom the funds are set aside for, and for certain court approved expenses. However, when a guardian misuses funds, it will be necessary to hire an estate litigation attorney to help you recover the funds.

Beneficiaries, heirs, and those who have loved ones who are negatively impacted by abuse by a person who has a responsibility to handle financial matters have the right to have their questions answered. If there is wrongdoing on behalf of the fiduciary, you will need to work closely with an estate litigation attorney to hold them accountable.

Types of Actions Which Require Estate Litigation

Being responsible for handling financial matters is one which must be taken seriously at all times. When someone is appointed to handle the financial matters of someone else, they agree to abide by certain conditions. This applies whether the person is appointed by the court through:

  • Letters of Administration — issued when someone dies without a will
  • Letters of Testamentary — issued when someone names an executor
  • Guardianship Certification — issued when someone is incompetent or a minor who is awarded a settlement

Or when someone is appointed through other legal means including:

  • Financial Power of Attorney — legal document allowing someone to handle someone’s finances
  • Successor Trustee — person named to administer a trust when the original trustee becomes incapacitated or dies

Abuse of this power includes a caregiver or other party intimidating a beneficiary or maker of a will, power of attorney, or trust to make changes they would not make on their own. Other types of abuse include using money for their own benefit without full written authority to do so.

Contesting A Will In North Carolina

Other instances in which litigation may be necessary include contesting a will. This may occur for various reasons including:

  • Mental health of the maker of the will — anyone is free to change the terms of their will at any time. However, changes require the person be of sound mind, and not making changes under duress.
  • Unusual change in the will — an example of this might be when a will is modified and excludes a blood relative but adds on a caregiver or other non-related person. This type of change may indicate the maker of the will is a victim of fraud or was placed in a position of being forced to make such a change.
  • Will is not enforceable — in North Carolina, the law states a will must be signed by two witnesses who are not beneficiaries. If this condition is not met, it may be contested for validity.

What Questions Should You Ask?

There may be other instances when you may wish to work with a North Carolina estate litigation attorney. Before you find the right attorney you will need to address some of the following questions:

  • Is there a reason to believe a senior is a victim of senior financial abuse?
  • Was a person unfairly declared incompetent to secure access to their finances?
  • Is the successor trustee looking out for the best interests of the beneficiaries of the trust?
  • Has the trustee properly interpreted the trust?
  • Are there reasons to contest a will including unexpected beneficiaries being named, an ex-spouse remaining as beneficiary, or unusual will caveats that appear suspicious?
  • Is the will properly executed in accordance with North Carolina law?

Remember some actions which may require litigation include fraud, negligent actions, commingling, theft, or misappropriation of funds. 

Contact Our North Carolina Estate Litigation Attorneys

If you have any reason to be suspicious of the actions of a trustee, executor, guardian, or administrator of an estate, discussing your concerns with an estate litigation attorney is important. Regardless of the issue regarding an estate dispute, our attorneys at McCollum Law have the knowledge and experience to help you. You can call or contact us online to schedule a consultation and to learn how we can help.

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