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Probate Litigation

Probate Attorney Oakland County

 

Probate Court Litigation


Is someone trying to deprive you of your rightful inheritance? Don’t let them get away with it! We are attorneys for heirs and beneficiaries. We specialize in the enforcement of inheritance rights. We’ll help you receive the inheritance your parents intended for you.

Our probate attorneys have many years of experience handling will contests and trust disputes in the Oakland County Probate Court and other probate courts throughout the State of Michigan. Our cases have involved disagreements among heirs, beneficiaries and family members over inheritances; wills and trusts that were improperly amended after a parent became mentally incapacitated or was unduly influenced; and breaches of fiduciary duties by personal representatives, executors and trustees.

Disputes among family members often arise after the death of a parent or grandparent. Our clients frequently find themselves in one the following situations:

  1. An heir or beneficiary has received Notice of a Probate Court proceeding and isn’t sure if or how to respond. If this is you, don’t ignore the Notice – your rights may be impaired or even lost if you don’t respond to the Notice on time. And don’t respond without the help an experienced probate attorney. Call us right away so we can make sure your rights are protected.

  2. An heir-at-law or beneficiary is being pressured to sign documents that may not be in his or her best interests. If you’re feeling pressured, please call us before signing anything! You could be signing away your rights.

  3. A stepmother has pressured a father to disinherit his children and leave everything to her. In this situation a son or daughter may have an “undue influence” or “mental incapacity” claim. If your father was mentally incompetent when he signed a new estate plan, or if he was coerced or tricked into disinheriting his children, his new estate plan could be invalid and you could be entitled to inherit under his previous estate plan.

  4. A brother or sister is attempting to subvert a parent’s true intentions by taking more than his or her fair share of the estate. We often see one sibling isolating an elderly parent from the others or abusing his or her authority as executor of the estate. You may need to file a Guardianship Petition to protect your parents or pursue a claim for undue influence or breach of fiduciary duty to preserve your inheritance rights.

  5. Whoever is in charge of an estate or trust is failing to provide the heirs and beneficiaries with financial information and cash distributions, or refusing to fairly divide a decedent’s personal property. You may have the right to compel accountings and distributions, and receive your fair share of your mother’s or father’s personal items of monetary and sentimental value.

  6. The trustee of a trust is denying a beneficiary’s request for a distribution of trust principal. Parents often leave it to a trustee’s discretion to decide when a trust beneficiary needs money from the trust. Retaining a high-powered probate court litigation firm is often essential. We have had great success convincing trustees to make requested trust distributions.

  7. Whoever is in charge of an estate or trust is paying themselves too much or making improper withdrawals or expenditures. Under these circumstances, you may have a breach of fiduciary duty claim to recover the misappropriated assets and remove the offending fiduciary.

In all of these situations we help heirs and beneficiaries inherit exactly what their parents wanted them to receive. If you’re in a similar situation, we can help.

We always attempt to resolve inheritance disputes privately, confidentially and respectfully. However, if negotiations fail to produce an agreement, you will lose your inheritance rights if you don’t assert your rights as an heir or beneficiary in Probate Court. In these cases, you need an experienced, hard-nosed probate litigation law firm. That’s us.
Our services include:

  • Will Contests: A will contest is a probate court proceeding to establish or challenge the validity of a will or trust. In a will contest, an interested party such as an heir or beneficiary can seek to invalidate a will or trust. For example, a beneficiary under a prior will could contend that a more recent will was invalid because the deceased parent was the victim of undue influence by a beneficiary under the new will, or that the decedent was mentally incompetent when he or she signed the new will. If it is established to the probate court’s satisfaction that the more recent will is invalid, then the decedent’s estate will be distributed in accordance with the prior will. An improperly disinherited beneficiary can reestablish his or her inheritance rights by means of a will contest.

  • Trust Disputes: A trust dispute is a probate court proceeding to enforce the rights of a trust beneficiary. Under a typical estate plan, a mother and father transfer their assets into a trust during their lifetime. Upon the death of the surviving parent, the remainder beneficiaries, usually the children, often become entitled to periodic income distributions. In addition, remainder beneficiaries may have the right to withdraw some or all of the principal of the trust, with or without the consent of the trustee(s). From time to time disputes arise between the beneficiaries of a trust and the trustee(s). For example, a trustee might not be providing accountings or making distributions to the beneficiaries, or a trustee may be refusing to permit a beneficiary to withdraw principal from the trust, or a trustee may be favoring one beneficiary over the others (often him or herself). We represent trust beneficiaries in all kinds of trust disputes.

  • Undue Influence Claims: Unfortunately, far too often wills and trusts are signed not because they reflect a true change of intention, but because someone has been able to trick or pressure an elderly parent into disinheriting one or more children. A probate court proceeding alleging that a will or trust was the result of “undue influence” seeks to have the will or trust invalidated. The heir or beneficiary pursuing the undue influence claim has the burden of proving the new will or trust does not accurately reflect the decedent’s true intentions because the decedent did not act of his or her own volition. To do so, it may be necessary to offer the testimony of witnesses and friends who have personal knowledge of the decedent’s intentions, or of medical professionals regarding the decedent’s susceptibility to manipulation. If the probate court determines that a will or trust was signed as the result of undue influence, the will or trust will be invalidated and the decedent’s prior estate plan will be enforced.

  • Mental Incapacity Claims: A mental incapacity claim may be pursued by an heir or beneficiary who believes a proffered will or trust was signed by the decedent when he or she was no longer mentally competent. The interested party pursuing this claim has the burden of proving that the decedent was not of sound mind and disposing memory when the questioned will or trust was signed. In many cases, testimony of doctors is submitted to the probate court to establish that a father or mother was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia when a will or trust was signed. If the probate court agrees, the will or trust will be invalidated and the decedent’s prior estate plan will be enforced.

  • Heir-at-Law Claims: When someone passes away without a will, his or her assets pass to the “heirs-at-law” in accordance with the laws of intestate succession. Under Michigan intestate succession statutes, when a father dies without a will, his estate is shared between his surviving widow and children. It is often necessary for an heir-at-law to open a probate estate in order to enforce his or her right to inherit under the laws of intestate succession.

  • Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims: A fiduciary is a personal representative, executor or trustee. All fiduciaries are legally obligated to act in the best interests of the heirs and beneficiaries to whom their fiduciary duties are owed and strictly forbidden from acting in their own interests. Fiduciaries are often also beneficiaries. For example, one sibling may be named as the fiduciary of a will or trust and entrusted by the parents to treat all of the siblings equally and fairly. If the entrusted sibling fails to do so, the other siblings may have a breach of fiduciary claim. To prevail on a breach of fiduciary duty claim, an heir or beneficiary has the burden of proving that the fiduciary breached his or her duties by violating the terms of the will or trust, failing to abide by any probate court order or abusing his or her discretion regarding trust distributions. A beneficiary can assert their breach of fiduciary duty claim in probate court, seeking removal of the fiduciary and/or recovery of trust assets misappropriated or imprudently invested by the fiduciary. The probate court could also seek to compel the fiduciary to take specific actions, such as make distributions to trust beneficiaries.

Our probate litigation attorneys include:

 

Charles McKelvie
Rita McKelvie
Edmund S. Yee
Stephen Epacs

 

Thank you for visiting our website and taking the time to learn about will contests and trust disputes. We hope you’ll give us a call to discuss your situation. We would be happy to schedule a free, confidential consultation with one of our probate attorneys. If we determine that you have a valid claim, we’ll offer to represent you on an hourly fee, flat fee or contingent fee basis. Then we’ll see to it that your inheritance rights are fully enforced.

 

Based in Birmingham, Michigan, McKelvie DeLuca represents heirs and beneficiaries throughout the Metropolitan Detroit area, including Oakland County, Macomb County, Wayne County and Washtenaw County, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, West Bloomfield, Rochester, Rochester Hills, Troy, Novi, Plymouth, Brighton, Canton Township, Commerce Township, Milford, Clinton Township, Macomb and Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Probate Attorney Oakland County

 
     
     
     
 
Meet our Attorney Practice Areas  
 
 
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Charlie McKelvie


Charles L. McKelvie

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Rita McKelvie


Rita A. McKelvie
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Ed Yee


Edmund S. Yee
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Stephen-Epacs


Stephen Epacs


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Disclaimer: This is an advertisement. The materials on this web site have been prepared by McKelvie, McKelvie, Yee & Epacs, P.C. for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney/client relationship. Internet users and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


Our firm services clients throughout Michigan including the entire Detroit Metro area (Oakland County, Wayne County and Macomb County) as well as Ann Arbor, Lansing and Grand Rapids. With offices in Birmingham, MI we are close to Auburn Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield, Farmington Hills, Farmington, Franklin, Northville, Novi, Rochester, Rochester Hills, Royal Oak, Southfield, Troy and West Bloomfield.
  Address

280 West Maple Rd, Suite 200
Birmingham, MI 48009

248-952-5100
248-952-5138 fax