What is California Estate Litigation?
Generally speaking, "estate litigation" is a type of civil litigation that is conducted in the Probate Courts here in California. Litigation is somewhat like what you see depicted on television shows and movies. Courtrooms, judges, juries (sometimes), lawyers, and civil procedure are involved in the late stages of California estate litigation. Note that "civil" litigation is very different from criminal cases, though they have similar appearances. Civil matters involve private parties and often involve disputes about money and property; criminal matters involve the government and a person alleged to have committed a crime. Criminal cases involve possible jail time -- that is, the loss of a person's liberty. Note also that "estate litigation" is often distinguished from "trust litigation" (although similar types of legal claims are often involved).
Estate litigation involves civil litigation over the Estate of a person who has died. When a person dies, his or her assets and property become the decedent's Estate. So, California estate litigation involves lawsuits and court proceedings related to that Estate. Examples of types of disputes include:
- If there is a Last Will & Testament, then disputes over the validity of the Will -- these are called "Will Contests"
- If there is a Will, disputes over spousal entitlements and/or other provisions contained in the Will
- If there is no Will, then disputes over who should receive what under California laws of intestacy
- Disputes over who the California Probate Court should appoint as Executor to handle the Estate
- Allegations related to improper administration of the Estate, including failure to do an inventory, failure to account for Estate property, to recover Estate property, self-dealing, breach of fiduciary duty, etc.
- Failure to pay or improper payments from the Estate to creditors, heirs, and legatees
- Claims of misappropriation and wasting of Estate property
These types of Estate litigation are generally resolved within the California Probate Proceedings (as opposed to being resolved through separately-filed lawsuits). Importantly, this means that the California Probate Court will resolve these disputes and claims.
Another -- rare and limited -- type of Estate Litigation involves disputes brought by creditors or others demanding compensation from the Estate. Examples might include litigation of a tax lien or a business or partnership dispute. However, sometimes, these types of cases are allowed to proceed in separately filed and prosecuted litigation.
Note that matters like a personal injury claim on behalf of or against the Estate or a dispute over something like life insurance will generally be handled as a separate lawsuit. In those circumstances, the California Probate Proceedings will generally be held in "pause mode" until such separate lawsuits are resolved. A Probate Proceeding cannot be closed and finalized until all such legal issues are completed.
As can be seen, Estate Litigation can be quite complicated, and the parties involved need very experienced and competent California Estate Litigation attorneys.
Contact Our Experienced Irvine, CA Estate Litigation Attorneys
For more information, contact the Irvine, California, Estate Planning and Litigation attorneys at Guardian Litigation Group. Our Mission is to provide unparalleled Estate Planning and litigation services for our clients. We can be reached via our contact page or by phone at (800) 316-3133. We are located in Irvine, California.