What is Estate Litigation in Maryland/D.C.?

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The Maryland and D.C. estate litgation attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl explain estate litigation below.

Estate litigation is a civil litigation filed in the civil courts of Maryland or the District of Columbia that relates to Estate Planning documents like Last Wills and Testaments, Trusts, beneficiary designations, guardianships, and more. Litigation involves the threats of or the actual filing of lawsuits in the civil courts.

Estate litigation can — and often does — occur as part of other types of civil proceedings. For example, if family members challenge the validity of a Last Will and Testament (“Will”), that is a form of estate litigation. However, a Will Contest generally occurs as part of probate proceedings, not as a separately-filed lawsuit.

Will Contests are probably the best-known example of estate litigation. A Will Contest essentially challenges a Will on various grounds, including the capacity of the person making the Will, undue influence by a relative, fraud, duress, coercion, ambiguity, conflict between the Will and statutory law concerning spousal inheritance (for example), etc.

As part of a probate proceeding, estate litigation can bring legal challenges to other aspects of a decedent’s Estate administration. Examples include:

  • Conflicts over who should be named as the Personal Representative or Executor
  • Allegations of improper administration, such as breach of fiduciary duties, failure to account, failure to provide an inventory, etc.
  • Failure to tender the property to heirs and legatees
  • Failure to pay or improper payment to creditors
  • Failure to recover or identify Estate property
  • Theft or wastage of Estate property by the Personal Representative or others
  • And more

As noted, estate litigation also includes legal disputes over trusts of various kinds. Often, a person will create a Living Revocable Trust as part of Estate Planning. Upon death, this can lead to estate litigation. Many of the same legal issues that are listed above can form the basis of trust litigation. That is, upon death, the trustee of a living revocable trust is obligated to dispute assets and property from the trust corpus. Failure to do so and/or failure to do so correctly can lead to litigation. Other claims can include allegations of:

  • Self-dealing
  • Breach of duty of care – that is, a failure by the trustee to carefully manage the assets in the trust
  • Breach of duty of impartiality and/or loyalty
  • Violation of the trust instructions
  • And other claims

Estate litigation can also involve more narrowly-focused legal issues with regard to beneficiary status under financial and legal instruments like a life insurance policy, a 401(k) retirement plan, or similar. Here included are also legal issues concerning certain types of real estate deeds. For example, estate litigation might be initiated to challenge whether certain real property was correctly deemed to be held by joint tenancy rather than by tenants in common. The type of tenancy matters for how ownership of the property changes after death.

Maryland and D.C. Estate Litigation Attorneys

If you need Estate Litigation legal services or are thinking about establishing a trust, or need estate planning documents drafted, contact the Maryland and D.C. trust and estate planning lawyers at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl. We have the experience and expertise you need. Schedule a consultation today or call us at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280. We have offices in Columbia, MD, and Washington, DC.

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