When a loved one dies, they leave behind an estate, which is composed of all the assets listed in their will, and assets that do not have a designated beneficiary and are not held by their trust. There are many contexts in which estate matters can arise.
Perhaps the provisions of a will are ambiguous.
Perhaps the executor was appointed to their role without having prior experience as a fiduciary, and now, they need help navigating their duties.
Perhaps a beneficiary is seeking to protect their inheritance from being stolen by another beneficiary or heir.
Regardless of the nature of your estate matter, Keystone’s Los Angeles estate attorney team can assist. Los Angeles estate litigation is a highly specialized practice area on account of California’s estate and trust laws being so complex. That is why it is crucial to hire an experienced and knowledgeable estate attorney. Los Angeles residents can rest assured the probate lawyers at Keystone Law Group fit the bill.
Keystone Law Group provides a wide array of Los Angeles estate litigation services that can benefit everyone from executors and administrators to beneficiaries and heirs. Keystone’s Los Angeles estate attorney team handles matters both large and small. Sometimes, they are litigating disputes relating to estates worth upward millions of dollars, and sometimes, they are helping executors and administrators complete basic duties, such as preparing accountings. The takeaway is that there is no type of estate matter Keystone’s Los Angeles estate attorneys can’t handle. If there is any uncertainty as to whether there is a need for the services of an estate attorney, Los Angeles residents should schedule a free consultation to speak with one of Keystone’s lawyers.
While estate matters can vary greatly in substance and scope, we have done our best to break them down into easy-to-understand categories, which you will find below. If your estate matter falls outside the listed categories, don’t hesitate to reach out, because our Los Angeles estate lawyers will probably still be able to help.
Did a decedent drastically alter their will from their deathbed at the urging of someone close to them? Did the decedent execute a codicil (i.e., an amendment to their will) after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease? Does a decedent’s will dispose of their property in a way that seems to contrast their previously stated wishes? Was a decedent deceived into leaving the majority of their assets to a non-family member?
When fraud, undue influence, lack of capacity, misconduct or negligence plays a role in the drafting or execution of a will, you may have grounds for contesting a will. If a will contest is won, either the entire will or the problematic codicil will be invalidated. If a will or codicil is invalidated, estate assets will either be distributed to heirs in accordance with California’s intestate succession laws, or they will be distributed in accordance with the provisions of the decedent’s prior will (given that one existed and it was valid).
Keystone’s Los Angeles estate lawyer team has ample experience successfully litigating will contests on behalf of its clients. If you are considering bringing a will contest, it is important to keep in mind that time is of the essence, because once a will is admitted to probate, there will only be a limited amount of time to contest the will. Call Keystone to speak with a Los Angeles estate attorney about whether you have proper standing and cause to contest a will.
Often, the person whom the decedent appoints as the executor is a family member with little to no experience administering an estate. To protect themselves against liability, they will likely need to fulfill their obligations with help from a qualified estate attorney. Los Angeles executors and administrators can turn to Keystone as much or as little as they need. The role of an executor is not easy; sometimes, even professional executors and administrators require help.
Keystone’s Los Angeles estate attorneys are eager to assist both seasoned and inexperienced executors and administrators. For seasoned clients, Keystone can provide legal guidance when complex estate-related decisions need to be made. For inexperienced clients, Keystone can play a more active role and take on some of their duties.
Regardless of whether you opt to hire a Los Angeles estate attorney to help with administration, it is important to keep in mind that errors, negligence or misconduct can have dire consequences for the executor or administrator, especially if their actions financially harmed the estate. This is why having a Los Angeles estate lawyer in your corner is always a good idea.
Los Angeles estate litigation frequently involves property disputes. Perhaps the title to real property is improperly held in the name of a third party and the decedent’s estate has a claim to recover the asset. Perhaps ambiguous language in the decedent’s will is causing confusion about which of the decedent’s siblings are to inherit their assets. Or, perhaps the decedent left their home to both their surviving spouse and child, and now one of them wants to sell the house and divide the proceeds, and the other wishes to keep the home in the family. Will a partition action to force the sale of jointly owned property need to be brought?
Keystone’s Los Angeles estate attorney team deals in estate property disputes every day and has an exceptional track record of resolving them in their client’s favor. Los Angeles estate litigation has the potential to get complex and costly; you need a lawyer who can navigate estate disputes with ease and within the confines of your budget. Keystone attorneys are skilled at finding cost-effective solutions for every client’s needs.
Accounting is a crucial part of administration. Once an executor or administrator is officially appointed to their role, they will begin the process of marshaling estate assets. Later, they will create an inventory of the assets and their value at the time of the decedent’s death. Executors and administrators must include such information in the formal accountings they are required to provide beneficiaries and heirs periodically.
Beneficiaries and heirs should carefully inspect the accountings they have been provided for red flags. If certain aspects of an estate accounting seem incorrect or suspicious, it may be necessary to dispute it with help from an estate attorney. Los Angeles residents can turn to Keystone to inspect accountings, and if necessary, challenge them in court. Executors and administrators also can turn to Keystone to help prepare accountings and defend any accountings that are being disputed.
When an executor or administrator fails to be diligent and/or ethical in carrying out the duties of their role, a petition can be brought to try to remove and surcharge them. Perhaps the executor or administrator sold estate property for below fair market value. Perhaps the executor or administrator is making unilateral decisions that are financially harming the estate without notifying beneficiaries. Perhaps the executor or administrator has been using estate funds for personal gain. These are all reasons to hire a Los Angeles estate attorney to petition the court to have the executor or administrator removed and potentially surcharged.
Because the person who has been appointed as the executor was generally named by the decedent in their will, the court will try to uphold the decedent’s wishes and keep them in their role unless blatant misconduct is proven or the estate will be subject to immediate harm if removal is not granted. Needless to say, removing and surcharging an executor or administrator can be challenging, so it is best to bring this kind of petition with help from a skilled Los Angeles estate lawyer.
Much Los Angeles estate litigation involves elder financial abuse. When a person grows old and starts to lose competence, they become more vulnerable to financial exploitation. Unfortunately, elder financial abuse frequently goes undetected during a person’s lifetime and only comes to light after they have died. One of the most common ways this type of abuse manifests is through a decedent’s estate plan. Perhaps they drastically changed it at someone’s urging, or they were defrauded out of large sums of money, which substantially decreased the value of their estate. When financial abuse is evident, the best option is to turn to a Los Angeles estate lawyer, who can help investigate the claim.
Financial elder abuse claims can be tough to prove considering that much of the time, the elder is not around to testify to the abuse; therefore, they tend to be most successful when litigated by an experienced Los Angeles estate lawyer. A successful claim can mean recovering the property that was lost, as well as damages.
California is a community property state, which means the surviving spouse of a decedent is usually guaranteed half of all property acquired over the course of a marriage regardless of which spouse acquired it. If the spouse of a decedent does not stand to receive at least half of all community property, it is crucial they speak with a Los Angeles estate attorney about their rights. A Los Angeles estate attorney will have a breadth of knowledge surrounding California’s marital property laws.
Unlike spouses, who may have community property rights to the assets, children and unmarried couples are not automatically guaranteed an inheritance, although they are certainly permitted to fight for one if they believe they are entitled to a share of the estate. Because the laws governing the inheritances of children and unmarried couples are a little more complex than those governing the inheritances of surviving spouses, children and unmarried couples will want to consult with an experienced Los Angeles estate lawyer if they wish to enforce their inheritance rights.
At Keystone, we understand navigating estate matters at an emotional time, such as after the loss of a loved one, can be challenging. Our Los Angeles estate lawyers are more than willing to take on the brunt of the burden for you when it comes to litigating disputes or carrying out administrative duties, so you can focus on grieving your loss.
Keystone Los Angeles estate attorneys can help by:
Keystone’s team of Los Angeles estate attorneys are unique in that they practice exclusively in estate and trust administration and litigation. Whereas most law firms dealing in trusts and estates handle estate planning and probate, Keystone handles probate matters only — which has enabled its Los Angeles estate litigation attorneys to reach a level of expertise few other probate attorneys have. Keystone’s Los Angeles estate lawyers also make it a point to routinely update themselves on the state’s constantly changing probate laws.
Keystone’s estate and trust attorneys have:
If a decedent’s assets were being managed by their power of attorney, control of those assets will need to be transferred to the person charged with settling the decedent’s estate. We help attorney-in-fact with this process and can defend them in the event they have been accused of power of attorney abuse.
Keystone’s lawyers leave no stones unturned. Our team has expertise in every practice area related to probate law. With Keystone, clients can rest assured they are receiving guidance from a highly skilled trust lawyer. Los Angeles residents can take advantage of Keystone’s many estate and trust services, which include: