3 Facts about Estate Planning Challenges After Mayberry

In the 2020 case, In the Estate of Mayberry, a Texas court ruled that the common-law wife of a deceased individual who died interstate lacked standing to remove the deceased’s daughter as an independent administrator. 


The court’s ruling was based on the perspective that the deceased’s daughter was not an “interested” party following a settlement agreement between the daughter and the deceased’s common-law wife to voluntarily release all of the daughter’s rights in the estate.


Under the terms of the agreement, the daughter agreed to accept $2,000 as “consideration” for the settlement and release of all claims to any part of the deceased individual’s estate. The daughter later argued that she did not release her right to receive an inheritance from the estate but had only released “claims” against the estate. The daughter argued that her right to receive an inheritance from the estate was not a claim against the estate. 


The court of appeals, however, disagreed with the daughter’s argument. The court noted that the state’s family settlement doctrine generally applies when there is a disagreement about an estate and that these agreements exist to resolve the dispute.


The court also held that the daughter no longer had an interest in the estate and had released this interest. While this case occurred in Texas, several New York statutes directly address compromise agreements impacting estates. 


Section 249-0 of the New York Tax Law authorizes an executor to enter into an agreement with the Tax Commission of New York State and the taxing authority of any other state compromising conflicting claims respecting the domicile of the deceased individual. This article reviews some critical details to understand about reducing the risk of estate planning disputes among surviving loved ones.


# 1 – Wills Can Be Contested


Will contests are court proceedings in which a New York court is called on to assess the validity of a will. The person challenging a will’s validity is referred to as a contestant. The person defending the terms of a will is referred to as a proponent. 


# 2 – Typical Will Objects


Some of the most common objections to wills and other estate planning documents include arguing that the person who created the will lacked the mental capacity to do so, the will or estate planning document was created as a result of undue influence, or the estate plan did not meet statutory requirements. 


# 3 – No Contest Clauses


One of the best ways to avoid estate planning disputes is to implement a “no contest” or “in terrorem” clause. These clauses state that a person who objects to the probate of a will gives up any bequest until the will if the individual loses his or her challenge and the document is upheld. 


Contact a Knowledgeable Estate Planning Attorney

If you or a loved one has questions or concerns about the estate planning process, one of the best things that you can do is to promptly speak with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney. Contact Ettinger Law Firm today to schedule a free case evaluation.

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