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Practice Area

Estate Litigation
HomePractice AreasEstate Litigation

Key Takeaways

  • Estate litigation often involves navigating probate court.
  • Some instances when you may need to litigate an estate matter include if a will is incomplete, multiple wills exist, or you suspect a will was made under duress.
  • An estate litigation attorney at Burner Prudenti Law can help you navigate contested wills, trusts, guardianship, accounting, and more.

Estate Litigation Attorney in New York

Estate litigation is a complex area of law involving contested wills, fiduciary responsibilities and actions, beneficiary rights, undue influence, and more. Our estate litigation attorneys are experts at understanding the inner workings of the probate process and advising you throughout the course of a contested proceeding. 

At Burner Prudenti Law, we are not just skilled trust and estate lawyers – we are legal advocates, and we take our role seriously when advising our clients during a period of loss and grief. If you need help unraveling a contested will or other estate related matter, contact our firm for a personal consultation with an experienced estate litigation attorney in Long Island. 

What is Estate Litigation?

Estate litigation involves representing the interests of the heirs or beneficiaries of someone who has passed away. Estate litigation can take many forms and, in New York and Long Island, often involves navigating the complex process of probate court. Estate litigation requires an intimate knowledge of the law and the facts, a skill set which we have developed over the years. In other cases, estate litigation is necessary to remedy instances of fraud, corruption of fiduciary duties, and undue influence. Estate litigation attorneys can also defend executors of a will or trustees against false claims or attempts to undermine sound wills and validly made estate plans.

estate litigation attorneys

Long Island Estate Litigation Process

The estate litigation process differs depending on the details of your claim. What you will need to prove in Surrogate’s Court will depend on what kind of claim you need to make. Our lawyers can help with every step of the Long Island estate litigation process, including: 

  • Filing initial pleadings
  • Participation in the discovery process
  • Participation in Mediation
  • Handle depositions
  • Preparing for trial with your attorney
  • Going to trial

When Do You Need to Litigate an Estate Matter?

No one wants to experience trust and estate litigation after the loss of a loved one, but unfortunately, at times, there is no choice in the matter. The best way to prevent estate litigation is to ensure that you and your family have created valid and professionally executed wills, testaments, and trusts ahead of time with an estate planning attorney. But, when proper planning has not been put in place or where a family member is being unreasonable, litigation is the only way to achieve justice. 

Examples of when you might need to litigate an estate matter include situations where: 

  • Multiple wills exist, or a previous will has been revoked.
  • Someone may have taken advantage of the testator by convincing them in a vulnerable state to change or alter a will in their favor. This is called “undue influence” and is a common source of estate litigation.
  • The will has been improperly executed. For instance, it may not have been properly witnessed, notarized, and signed. 
  • You suspect the will may have been forged or improperly altered.
  • The will is incomplete, or a mistake was made in its terms. 
  • You suspect that a will was made at a time of incapacity, or when the testator was not mentally competent to make financial decisions. They may not have been aware of the nature or objects of their bounty.
  • The will may have been made under duress. Unfortunately, cases of elder abuse are on the rise, and family members may need to assert their claim when these issues come to light after the death of a loved one.
  • Another party claims that they suspect fraud, abuse, or that a fiduciary has acted inappropriately in their guardianship role. Such a claim would likely require an estate litigation attorney to defend a will or trust, as opposed to challenging its structure.

What Does an Estate Litigation Attorney Do?

Estate litigators consult with beneficiaries in order to form the strongest possible case in favor of their claim. At Burner Prudenti Law, our Long Island estate litigators will listen to the details of your claim, build a case that includes financial and physical evidence and rely on established legal principles and precedents, and fight for you in court if necessary. We will handle all of the paperwork and filings included in contesting a will or trust with expert and professional service in all New York Surrogate’s Courts. 

When Do You Need an Estate Litigation Attorney?

If you believe your rights as a beneficiary have been violated, or that there has been an abuse of fiduciary duties, a trust and estate litigation attorney can prosecute your claim. Completing the estate litigation process can be emotionally grueling and financially draining without professional experienced help. Additionally, improperly filed claims can be disqualified by the court, denying you an inheritance or assets to which you may have a legal right.

Hon. Gail Prudenti in office talking with a fellow attorney

Our Long Island Estate Litigation Services

Proving incapacity, undue influence, and other challenges to wills and the terms of a trust is often a difficult challenge for those who are unfamiliar with the process. Estate litigation is a specialized field where most attorneys are not comfortable practicing. Because the main party is deceased, proving exactly what occurred as a violation often involves the reconstruction of certain key facts. An attorney is required when any question of estate litigation arises in order to protect your rights and avoid a protracted and messy battle. Our Long Island estate litigation attorneys have a proven track record of offering invaluable assistance in all of areas, including: 

Fiduciary Litigation

Fiduciary litigation occurs when one party, usually the beneficiary of a trust, believes that someone in a fiduciary position has abused their power. A fiduciary is a person appointed in a legal or financial guardianship role. Fiduciaries are legally obligated to act in the best interests of the people that they represent. Fiduciaries include executors of a will, administrators of an estate, trustees, and agents acting with Power of Attorney. Fiduciaries’ behavior requires the highest level of ethical behavior. 

When a fiduciary acts irresponsibly or unethically, they can be held accountable through a proceeding brought by an estate litigation attorney. Examples of fiduciary litigation claims include mismanagement of funds, misappropriation of assets, or failure to adhere to the terms of a Will.

Beneficiary Rights

Beneficiaries have more rights than simply receiving certain assets after the death of a testator. In New York, they also have the right to be informed regarding the terms of a will, the right to prompt distribution of funds or assets, and a right to an inventory of the total estate or trust in question. If you believe your share of a will or trust has been tampered with, improperly accounted for, or is otherwise being withheld from you, contact an estate litigation attorney in Long Island for a consultation. 

Contested Wills

A last will and testament is a legal document that gives direction as to who shall inherit certain tangible goods, as well as intellectual property rights and shares of stock and real property. Wills can be contested in instances of due execution, fraud, undue influence, and duress. Wills that are executed improperly or made by someone no longer of sound mind and capacity may form the legal basis for estate litigation in Long Island. But you still must meet certain stringent requirements for filing to overturn a will. One of the Long Island estate litigation lawyers at Burner Prudenti Law can help determine whether you qualify to contest a will in New York. 

Contested Trusts

A trust is a powerful and useful way to protect assets from creditors, claimants, extended tax liability, and more. Not just anyone can contest the terms of a trust. In New York, trusts are becoming more common. The contesting party must have a financial stake in the trust or qualify as a beneficiary under intestacy laws. 

Contesting a trust can come with more risk than contesting a will and should only be done under the guidance of an experienced estate litigation attorney. If the trust contains a no-contest clause, a beneficiary who contests the terms of the trust may forfeit the current terms of their inheritance if their claim is unsuccessful. For this reason, those who seek to contest a trust should proceed with caution and only work with a firm that possesses an in-depth understanding of this specialized area of law. 

If the dispute over the trust cannot be solved through mediation or negotiation, an heir or beneficiary can file a petition to contest the trust with the New York Surrogate Court. Importantly, trust contest proceedings have a statute of limitations of six years after the grantor’s death. 

Contested Guardianship

Guardianship can be temporary or indefinite under New York law and is meant to provide a safety net for vulnerable individuals such as elderly, mentally incapacitated, or disabled individuals. Contested guardianship often involves claims of undue influence, abuse, or fraud. 

Legal guardianship can add a layer of confusion when the terms of a will or trust are contested. A party may be appointed as guardian for a person who is incapable of making decisions for themselves, a guardian of property, or both. Understanding the nuances, as well as gathering evidence of the individual’s condition and unique needs, is often crucial when it comes to contested guardianship cases. 

Guardians are meant to protect for those who need help, but the potential for unethical behavior is unfortunately high. Estate litigation attorneys in Long Island often relies on knowledge of civil rights statutes, inheritor law, as well as Articles 17 of the SCPA nd 81 of the MHL when making a contested guardianship claim. 

Contested Accounting

Reconciliation of assets and expenditures is a crucial step in estate distribution. Contested accounting claims occur when beneficiaries or distributees disagree about the terms, conditions, or amounts accounted for in the estate of a deceased party. If the executor of an estate, a trustee of a trust, or someone with fiduciary responsibility is concealing information or misrepresenting assets, a beneficiary may be able to commence a contested accounting claim with the help of a Long Island estate litigation attorney.