Virginia Estate Litigation Lawyer

It can be tricky when estate documents are ambiguous and leave the true purpose of the testator in question. Even when a will is perfectly clear, interested parties may still have a legal basis to challenge the document, initiating litigation proceedings. A Virginia estate litigation lawyer could evaluate your situation to help you determine whether you have grounds for a lawsuit.

An experienced trust and estates attorney could explain your legal rights and provide valuable guidance at each phase of the litigation process to ensure your best interests are protected.

Reasons Why a Will May Be Invalid

Generally, a claimant may only file a will contest if they are named as an heir in the will, or if they may inherit from the decedent’s estate under current intestacy laws but are disinherited or not mentioned in the will. A will must first be deemed invalid to be contested. Common reasons a will could be held as invalid include:

  • The testator was mentally impaired or incapacitated at the time of the will’s execution
  • The will was rescinded or revoked at some point (i.e. the testator married, executed a new will, etc.)
  • The testator was under the influence of threat or force when the will was executed
  • The will does not comply with the law, such as when it lacks the testator’s signature or was not signed in front of witnesses
  • The testator was under the influence of fraud when the will was drawn up

A legal professional in NoVa could help an heir or other potential challenger determine if they may have a valid claim to contest a will’s validity and initiate estate litigation proceedings.

In the Absence of a Will

When a decedent fails to leave a will, the state’s intestacy laws determine which surviving members of the decedent’s family receive certain assets. Any creditor claims, debts, or other obligations owed would be paid directly out of the estate’s account.

The decedent’s remaining assets would then be distributed to the surviving members of their family in a set sequence. The decedent’s spouse and children would be first in line, followed by any surviving parents and siblings. Next in line would be any surviving grandparents, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the decedent.

The Role of Virginia Probate Courts in Estate Litigation

Generally, it is up to the probate court to assess the validity of the will and whether it is enforceable. Assuming the validity of the will is upheld, the probate court would hand off the asset distribution to the named executor. If no enforceable will exists, the probate court would follow the intestacy laws set by the Commonwealth of Virginia to choose a personal representative.

When a dispute exists, the complicated legal proceedings could be navigated with the assistance of a local estate litigation attorney who is well-versed in the procedural rules governing probate court. They could ensure the claimant’s rights are being adequately protected throughout the process and prevent them from forfeiting any assets to which they may be entitled.

Contact a Virginia Estate Litigation Attorney Right Away

Whether you are trying to battle a contested will on your own or believe you may have grounds to dispute an estate, you should not attempt to deal with the probate process on your own. A compassionate Virginia estate litigation lawyer with extensive experience handling intestate disputes, fiduciary disputes, probate litigation, and other estate actions could be your legal advocate from day one. Call to schedule your attorney consultation today.