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Lake Forest Illinois Trusts and Estates Law Blog

Probate litigation: Sibling questions brother's actions

Many Illinois elders have several adult children in their families. It is not uncommon, however, for one of numerous siblings to be most active in helping an aging parent take care of his or her finances, medical issues or estate planning. With regard to executing a last will and testament, every state has its own laws about such matters, but all states require that an estate owner be of sound mind and not under duress when he or she signs an estate planning document. In another state, a person is questioning whether there are grounds for probate litigation, because several siblings believe a brother has not been forthright regarding their mother's will.

The siblings' mother passed away approximately four years ago. The siblings say they were aware of a last will and testament their mother had signed, and that her assets were to be divided equally among all her children. However, one of the woman's sons says she signed a new will before her death.

Walt Disney probate litigation: Can grandson appear by telephone?

If an Illinois resident is named as a beneficiary in another person's last will and testament, it may be that he or she will have to attend one or more court hearings. If probate litigation takes place in another state, travel arrangements and related expenses may be a concern. The grandson of deceased family film icon Walt Disney recently filed a federal lawsuit alleging that a judge in another state has violated his constitutional right to due process.

Disney's grandson says he has repeatedly asked the court to allow him to attend hearings related to his inheritance by telephone appearance. The court has denied his requests, multiple times. His lawyer notes that there is nothing in the state's probate laws that bars this. In fact, the attorney says the laws as written actually encourage it, as necessary.

Heirs of former motel owner gridlocked with business partner

Two men in another state went into business together in the 1990s. They were co-owners of a motel and remained partners in business for approximately 25 years. One of the men has since died, leaving his three heirs his half of the business. As sometimes occurs in Illinois estates under similar circumstances, a battle has since erupted between the three siblings and their deceased father's former business partner, who still owns 50% of the motel. 

The man has requested that the court order that the business be dissolved. He claims that his former partner and friend's heirs have systematically attempted a hostile takeover of his business. Among other things, he claims they have misused company money, have removed corporate documents from the motel office and have also blocked a refinancing plan.

Siblings shouldn't have to fight over an estate

You and your siblings have had a big problem since your parents passed away: a dispute over the estate. Estate litigation can easily tear a family apart, so you want to do what you can to resolve the conflict quickly.

Fortunately, many people have been through situations like this before. That means that there are plenty of ways that you can work through this.

Estate planning: No need to be afraid of it

Especially if you are under age 40, you might not like the idea of discussing your own mortality. Even older people sometimes hesitate to think about such issues. The fact is, however, that every person will die someday, so it is always best to be as prepared as possible regarding estate planning.

One of the benefits of planning your estate is that you can customize your plan to fit your needs and goals. Whether you have a sizable estate of high net worth or a simple asset portfolio, it pays to execute a plan that helps you protect what you worked so hard to acquire. A solid estate plan can also benefit your loved ones, especially if you include a last will and testament that names heirs and beneficiaries.

Signals that your heirs might contest your estate plan

Having an estate plan is one way to ensure that your family members won't fight over your estate when you're gone. What many people don't realize is that there are signs they can look for that signal potential issues to lead to a will contest.

While these signs might not be anything that you have to address while you're alive, they can be a clue to anything in particular that you need to include in your estate plan.

Probate litigation not over yet for Aretha Franklin's family

When there is confusion regarding a decedent's last will and testament or other issues regarding his or her estate plan, it can spark disputes among family members. Each year in Illinois, family disagreements about a loved one's will or other estate planning concerns end up in probate court. When iconic soul singer Aretha Franklin passed away, it prompted probate litigation among her family members that is still ongoing.

Franklin's estate is said to be worth approximately $17 million. Several handwritten wills were found in her home after she died. This has placed several of her loved ones at odds, which has led to a nasty court battle. Franklin's niece has been acting as executor of the estate but she has reportedly requested to be relieved of those duties.

Avoid the contention these heirs and beneficiaries have faced

If adult children in Illinois are named as heirs in a parent's will, it is logical to assume they would hope to avoid legal obstacles when the time comes to administer their loved one's estate. In the past, several celebrities have taken legal steps to protect their assets and provide for their family after they're gone. The problem is that things do not always turn out as they might have hoped. In fact, there are numerous cases of heirs and beneficiaries battling it out in court.

Former Hollywood icon Audrey Hepburn left a storage locker filled with memorabilia from her successful, long-running acting career. She reportedly left instructions that her two sons should divide the contents of the locker between them. While such instructions seem to be simple enough to carry out, problems arose in this case when the two brothers disagreed on how to interpret a fair division.

Estate planning: Hot topic after Kobe Bryant's death

NBA fans, coaches, players and families in Illinois and around the globe recently mourned the tragic death of basketball icon Kobe Bryant, who was traveling with his daughter and several others when their helicopter crashed, leaving no survivors on board. Since the tragedy, news headlines have been filled with titles about Bryant's family, including speculation about estate planning. The question of whether the former basketball star had signed a last will and testament, so far, remains unclear.

Bryant was known as being a person who paid attention to detail and diligently kept his personal finances and other important issues in order. This has prompted many people to assume he had a last will and testament in place before he died. Others, however, have noted that Bryant's African-American heritage may place him in a group that is reportedly notorious for not executing estate plans.

Do you worry one family member may challenge your Illinois will?

There is a common saying that one bad apple spoils the bushel. The scientific basis for this statement is the fact that apples give off a ripening hormone. When one apple suddenly spoils, other apples in close proximity may wind up ripening prematurely and rotting as well.

Such a unique scenario may seem far from something with universal applicability, but in reality, that saying can apply to an estate plan or last will. It only requires one selfish heir or beneficiary to challenge your last will or estate plan and throw your carefully considered legacy wishes into chaos.

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