Wills, Trusts & Estates

For over two decades our NC Estate & Fiduciary Litigation Attorneys have litigated a broad range of cases including will contests, trusts disputes, power of attorney abuses, estate litigation, and fiduciary violations.

Will Contests

We have handled claims involving undue influence and incapacity of the testator of a will. These will caveat cases challenge whether the maker of the probated Last Will & Testament made that document knowingly and freely. Medical records, transaction history, past wills and testaments, witnesses to the documents, are just a part of building the case for either a jury trial (devisat vel non) or a summary judgment hearing.

Why a Challenge to a Will? Will contests have become prevalent as our citizens live longer lives and have physical & mental illnesses, families live further apart, and the second marriages pit step parents against children of born prior to the subsequent marriage. Dementia, strokes, seclusion of the testator all are factors in these types of cases.

For more information on types of cases concerning different challenges to a will, see our site willcaveat.com/what-is-a-will-caveat/

For a discussion of what is Undue Influence, see willcaveat.com/grounds-contesting-will-undue-influence/

Trust Litigation Claims

There are a number of cases involving trusts such as:

  • Breach of Fiduciary Duty
  • Failure to Report and Inform Beneficiaries (demand for an accounting)
  • Violation of the Prudent Investor Rule
  • Trustee Removal Actions
  • Termination of a Trust
  • Trust Contests

Our NC Trust Litigation Attorneys are experienced in Trust disputes.

Estate Litigation

Sometimes the will is not the problem, but the handling of the estate is the source of the problem. Someone hides assets. Another destroys the testators will and documents. We’ve litigated these cases, including Petition to Probate a Lost Will, Petition for the Discovery of Assets, demands for accountings, removal of executors or administrators.

Elective Share

In recent years the NC Legislature made significant changes in the rights of a Surviving Spouse. These elective share cases occur where a surviving spouse is written out of a will or given too small an amount.

In a nutshell, depending on the number of years the couple was married, the spouse can elect to take a percentage of the deceased spouse’s Total Net Assets. Total Net Assets (TNA) include assets that passed outside the estate, eg. Paid on Death accounts or life insurance policies. By example, NCGS 30-3.1 entitles the surviving spouse to a share of the TNA as follows:

  • If married less than 5 years, the Surviving Spouse’s share is 15% of the Total Net Assets
  • If married 5 to 10 years, then the share is 25% of the Total Net Assets
  • If married 10 to 15 years, then the share is 33% of the Total Net Assets, and
  • If married more than 15 years, then the share is 50% of the of the Total Net Assets

For more information on Elective Share claims, see our site: willcaveat.com/elective-share-spouses-estates-nc-attorney/

Again, we’ve represented clients in elective share cases.

Interpleader Action

If there is a dispute over the beneficiary of a financial account or life insurance policy, then an interpleader action is likely to be instituted. These cases involve who is the rightful beneficiary of the account. Many of the same claims and challenges in will contest case are litigated to determine the death beneficiary, such as diminished capacity and undue influence.

Interpleader Cases need prompt attention. The financial institution needs to be notified early that there are parties contesting the beneficiary designation. Once disbursed, then it’s a challenge directly between the named beneficiary and those claiming they should be the rightful beneficiary.

Call today to make an appointment to discuss your estate litigation matter at 336-768-1515.

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Kurtz Whitley Guy Sanders & Rainey, PLLC
One Salem Tower 119 Brookstown Ave
Suite 400
Winston-Salem, NC 27101

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