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Will and Trust Contests

Nebraska Will & Trust Dispute Lawyer

Rights to Contest a Trust or Will

In order to ensure that property gets divided as it should upon a person's death, individuals typically enter into Wills or living trusts. While these legal documents can be highly beneficial in easing the process of property distribution, they can often be cause for much distress. It is not uncommon for beneficiaries or other interested parties to be surprised at the contents of the Will, and therefore become suspicious as to its validity. You may be wondering if your loved one was manipulated or coerced into changing their Will or if mental incapacity prevented the Will from accurately reflecting the testator's wishes. Whatever your circumstance, our firm may be able to help you present the clear and convincing evidence necessary to contest a Will.

Domina Law Group has successfully handled Will Contests and disputes and Trust Contests and disputes in multiple states in the US. We have represented clients on both sides of a Will or Trust related dispute, those that want the most recent Will to be valid and in other instances those who sought to overturn what they believe was not the last true and valid Will of a loved one but rather the product of undue influence by another seeking to influence the decedent for their personal gain.

Contesting a Trust or Will

A contest to a Will or trust can be pursued by any "interested party." Those who may qualify are the deceased's spouse, children, beneficiaries, other kin or creditors. If a Will negatively affects your rights, then you may be able to contest. In order to do so, the Will must be offered for probate. At this point, the contestants will be met with strict deadlines that must be met if they want their contest to be considered.

In the arena of Trust disputes our work ranges from assisting Trustees in defending Trust challenges and initiating lawsuits against beneficiaries or others who are indebted to or owe money to the Trust that should be available to distribution to the Trust beneficiaries to assisting beneficiaries that believe provisions or language of a Trust were the product of undue influence or manipulation.

Sometimes when land is a part of a Will or a Trust, interested parties, such as siblings, who may not get along end up owning assets or land jointly or with undivided interests in the entire piece of land. We assist clients in filing Partition lawsuits designed to sell the land in question and distribute the proceeds so to alleviate and solve the problem of owning assets with individuals who don't get along and should not be business partners.

Grounds to Dispute a Will or Trust

There are a few scenarios which may qualify you to contest a Will.

A will can be contested on three grounds:

  1. the formalities required to execute the Will were not met
  2. the Will maker was not mentally capable of doing so
  3. the Will maker was manipulated by "undue influence"

These are all fairly broad categories. If the Will was not executed within the strict requirements of the State of Nebraska, then you may be able to legally dispute how the estate was administered.

Mental Incapacity

In order to execute a Will, an individual must be of "sound mind." There are some instances where an individual does not have the mental capacity necessary to execute a will, but do so anyway. For a Will to be considered valid, it must be proved that the testator (Will maker) knew the nature of their acts, knew the extent of their property, knew the proposed disposition of their property and also knew the natural objects of their bounty.

Fraud or Undue Influence

A Will is called such because it is supposed to reflect the desires of the one making it. For this reason, a Will can be contested if there was believed fraud or undue influence over the testator. It happens in some cases that an individual attempts to manipulate the Will in their own favor, so they overrule the decisions of the testator.

Improper Execution

There are strict rules in place in order to make the execution of a Will legitimate. Except for holographic wills, a will is required to be in writing and signed by the testator. If it cannot be signed by the testator, then someone acting on their behalf may sign. In Nebraska, Wills may be considered valid even if there were no witnesses. If a Will was executed improperly, it may be contested.

Subsequent Will

If a Will was made subsequent to another Will, the first one will may not be considered valid. In many cases, a second Will proves to be highly similar to the first. In these cases, only the inconsistencies in the first Will can be revoked. If a subsequent Will is entirely inconsistent with the first, then the first one will likely be revoked entirely.

Is an Improperly Executed Will or Trust Affecting your Rights?

At Domina Law Group, we know the intricacies of Will contestation and frequently assist clients in getting the justice that they deserve. It is not uncommon for these issues to go to trial, which is why it is essential to have our firm on your side. With more than 300 successful jury trials under our belts and more than 260 state and federal appeals argued, our trial experience is something to be confident in. Since 1975, our firm has been providing legal assistance to those faced with complex Will and trust matters. A Will is your way to get what is rightfully due you after a loved one has passed. Whether in court, mediation or arbitration, you can count on our firm's knowledge and experience to work in your favor.

Take the next step and contact us today!

Successful Will & Trust Contest Lawsuits

Recent examples of successful lawsuits relating to Will and Trust contests include:

  • When two large churches learned a Will left a decedent's assets to them, but was supplanted late in his life by a later Will giving his assets to an intervenor much younger, with whom the decedent's relationship was limited, Domina Law Group was hired to solve the problem. After the Will Contest trial concluded the Churches were victorious and the later Will was deemed invalid and a product of undue influence. The substantial assets of the decent were sold, reduced to cash, and passed to the Churches as directed pursuant to the older Will we fought to be deemed the last and valid Will.
  • When a nephew of decedent learned a later Will cut him out completely from any proceeds when a Will just two years earlier had left him seven figures in assets he called a Nebraska will contest attorney at Domina Law Group. After filing a Will Contest lawsuit, we obtained a seven figure result. He had first called us entitled to nothing but left our office a millionaire.

Other types of representative casework include:

  • Intensive sibling disputes over trusts and estates;
  • Fights between brothers and sisters to divide huge companies with trust and estate overtones;
  • Deathbed Will contests;
  • Suits to set aside deeds and determine property interests;
  • Family farm and ranching partnerships affected by Will contests and Trust disputes.

Recent Results:

  • Will / Trust Contest – Siblings cut out of deceased siblings will. Decedent allegedly entered into many other contract prior to death greatly affect the value of his Estate. We filed suit and recovered $10,000,000+
  • Will Contest – Decedent, late in life befriended by much younger woman leaves her his entire estate. We took the matter to trial – won and recovered assets of over $4,000,000 for our clients.
  • Will / Trust Contest – Client cut out of family trust late in decedent’s life. $0 pre-suit offer by defendants. $600,000+ settlement.
  • Will / Trust Contest – Multiple wills excluding client from inheritance. $0 pre-suit offer. $450,000 settlement after Voir Dire (the process before trial starts where we select who will be on the jury by asking them questions).
  • Will / Trust Contest – Questionable Will amendment eliminated heir. $0 pre-lawsuit offer from defendants. Six-figure settlement after summary judgment victory.
  • Will / Trust Contest – Decedent allegedly cut out his kids from his will in favor of girlfriend. Girlfriend’s attorneys sent us letters demanding we dismiss our will contest lawsuit claiming it was frivolous. Less than a year later we obtained a six-figure settlement for our clients.

Common Will & Trust Contest Questions

Can a will be challenged? - Yes. A will can be challenged for a variety of reasons, this is called a will contest. Challenges to wills are typically brought on by family members who feel unfairly represented in the inheritance. The process of verifying a will is known as probate and probate courts will hear legal issues regarding wills and trusts.

Who may challenge a will? - In order to challenge a will, one must have standing in the probate court. A person with standing is either a beneficiary named in the will or if the person would automatically inherit from the estate if the will was invalid. The latter group would likely be spouses or immediate blood relation.

How is a will contested? - There must be a legal basis shown for contesting a will. This can be shown by many ways including:

  • The will maker was not mentally competent at the time the will was drafted or signed
  • The will maker was pressured by someone to agree to certain terms
  • The will maker has another will or trust which trumps
  • The will was not properly witnessed or signed
  • The will maker was mistaken or induced by fraud to sign the will

What happens if a will is challenged? - With a successful challenge, either the entire will or part will be voided. A prior will may be reinstated, a new will may be created, or if there is no prior will the deceased assets are distributed as intestacy.

Do I need to consult a attorney regarding will contests? - Whether you believe you've been wrongfully deprived of inheritance or you have a will being contested, you should contact a lawyer immediately to protect your rights. Domina Law Group can inform you of your rights and preserve any legal remedies you may have.

Can a trust be challenged? - Yes. The validity of a trust can be challenged on much of the same grounds as a will. Challenges to trusts are typically brought by an individual who is eligible to inherit a decedent's property, but who isn't a beneficiary of the trust. The process of contesting a trust takes place in the probate court of the state that has jurisdiction over the trust.

Who may challenge a trust? - In order to challenge a trust, one must have legal standing. A person with standing is one that has a legal interest in the trust. This may be a beneficiary of the trust or someone who is eligible to inherit but was not named a beneficiary.

How is a trust challenged? - There must be a legal basis for contesting a trust. This can be shown in many ways including:

  • The one executing the trust was not mentally competent at the time the trust was drafted or signed.
  • The one executing the trust was unduly influenced to do so.
  • The one executing the trust has another will or trust in conflict.
  • The trust was not properly witnessed or signed.

What if a trust is valid but is being mismanaged or administered improperly? - A trust can be challenged after it has been validly executed. Trustees are fiduciaries. They are required to act in the best interest of the trust beneficiaries. Trust misconduct can happen in many ways including:

  • The trustee is refusing to comply with the terms of the trust.
  • The trustee is taking loans against the trust assets
  • The trustee is manipulating the terms of the trust for their own gain.
  • The trustee is making improper investment choices.

What happens if a trust is challenged? - If it is proven that the trust is not valid, the state with jurisdiction over the trust will have no choice but to distribute the estate with its interstate succession laws rather than in accordance with the terms of the trust. If it is proven that the trust is being mismanaged or administered improperly, you must initiate legal proceedings in Court to make sure your interests are represented and that any bad acts by the Trustees or those in control will be made to account for their actions. In some instances a Trustee will be held personally liable for their bad acts.

Do I need to consult a lawyer regarded trust contests? - Whether you believe you've been wrongfully deprived of inheritance or you have a trust being contested, you should contact a trust contest attorney immediately to protect your rights.

Domina Law Group can inform you or your rights and preserve any legal remedies you may have. Contact our firm today and speak to an experienced will and trust attorney.

Domina Law Group - Case Studies

Can’t we all just get along? Families - You can’t live with them and well, sometimes you may just want to live without them! (Will and Trust Contest Fights)

This is often the case in our family and closely held corporation dispute practice within our law firm. We handle numerous Will, Trust and estate challenges as well as family and closely held partnership challenges where the essence of the fight are almost always deep-seated issues between siblings, parents, children or relatives that have been unresolved for decades. It is almost always the case once there is money or assets and a death or estate plan that purports to distribute those assets and certain allocations, that is just what one or more of the family needed to start a fight or induce them prior to the fight to change documents or unduly influence the individual in control of the assets to give, will or devise the asset to that person to the detriment of others.

We handle more Will and Trust contest litigation than any other Plaintiff’s law firm in the State of Nebraska. These types of cases, while the specific facts and players are always different, the overall themes remain the same. Our clients are always initially shocked upon first telling us the layers of disfunction within their family and expressing their disbelief at how they have been treated by family members and always end their soliloquy in which they share this information by saying “Can you believe that? Have you ever heard of a family so screwed up before?” To which I always reply, “Yes I have, I have had this exact same conversation multiple times already this month.” You see the reality is, most adult conflicts between parents, siblings or other family members can be traced back to our childhoods.

Now that may sound like psychobabble but it is unbelievable how many childhood early adolescent wrongs or perceived wrongs are thought out later in life and sometimes with multimillions at stake. One such recent case was that of an elderly man who had amassed millions of dollars of real estate and farm land throughout his life. He and his wife did not have any children and his wife predeceased him. He had a local lawyer draft a trust years before his death that allocated where his assets and collectibles and money and personal property would go and directed that it be distributed to various nieces, nephews, and other family members.

Around the time when this individual was moved from his home into assisted living and then transitioned to a nursing home prior to his death, he allegedly made an amendment to his trust which switched the beneficiary of nearly a million dollars in assets from his nephew now going all to his niece. These individuals were brother and sister and to say they did not get along would be a gigantic understatement. Needless to say, the nephew was pretty unhappy to learn the decedent he felt was a father figure, who he used to live with and was very close with, would no longer leave the land promised to him his entire life and rather give all of it to his sister.

Predictably the parties could not agree initially on how to resolve this matter and the animosity and hatred ran deep. Domina Law’s lawyer Brian Jorde filed suit challenging the purported Trust Amendment and attacking its validity for a number of reasons. After over a year of litigation the parties were ordered to mediation which ultimately resolved the case on confidential terms.

If you suspect you might be a victim of someone changing or modifying a Will or Trust, or somehow being deceptive with assets that you are entitled to, or within a corporation that you are a part of or may be entitled to a part of, contact us immediately so we can help you before this gets too late. It is often harder to make a case far after the fact than it is to address things right as you learn of them!


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