A recent court hearing involving the estate of Aretha Franklin, the famous vocalist known as the Queen of Soul for her hit songs like "Respect," showed that the battle over her fortune is far from over.
New Jersey residents who stand to benefit from a loved one's estate or trust have to put a lot of faith in the executor of the estate or, in the case of a trust, in the trustee.
It is clearly not the case that all stepmothers are the wicked type that one finds in old children's tales. However, there is at least anecdotal evidence that many probate battles are fought between stepmothers and their adult stepchildren, that is, the children of a man who later re-married and then died.
One of the most difficult things about going through the probate process, or even administering a trust that operates outside of probate, is handling conflict between those who stand to benefit from a will or trust.
A previous post on this blog discussed what a New Jersey resident, can do if he or she suspects that a loved one is being taken advantage of by his or her attorney in fact. To review, an attorney in fact is someone the loved one appointed via a power of attorney to handle the loved one's financial affairs.
New Jersey residents who are sitting down to plan their estates generally do not want, or expect, a court fight to erupt over their will, or trust for that matter, after their deaths. Preventing intra-family conflict or other legal problems after one's death is precisely the reason many people engage in estate planning in the first place.
In many cases, it is in a New Jersey resident's best interest to make a will as part of her estate plan. One of the biggest risks in doing so, however, is that a will must go through the probate process and, during that process, can get challenged in court.