Options if You Disagree with Estate Distribution: Lessons from In Re: Estate of Krasinski

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently issues a noteworthy decision in the case of In Re: Estate of Krasinski. The case involved the estate of Sophia Krasinski, who passed away in 2006. The primary assets of Krasinski’s estate were three real estate parcels. One of Krasinski’s four children was appointed to act as an executor under the terms of Sophia’s will, which requested that the four children equally split the estate. In 2010, the Executor filed a petition to permit the sale of real estate to heirs, which was subsequently granted by orphans’ court. One of the beneficiaries subsequently sued the estate based on the alleged existence of an oral contract with Sophia Krasinski regarding her estate. Following a nonjury trial, the trial court held that there was no enforceable oral contract and dismissed the case. The beneficiary failed to appeal and a sale occurred. 


The Pennsylvania Supreme Court was subsequently presented with the opportunity to determine the proper scope of Rule 342(a)(6) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure, which provides for an appeal as of right from an order that determines an interest in real or personal property. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in turn, determined that the beneficiary waived all objections to the court’s order and approved the private sale. 


Each year, many estates are divided in a way with which beneficiaries disagree. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, one of the most common questions faced is what options you have to remedy the situation. 


# 1 – Go to Court


It is possible to pursue an estate planning matter in court, but to do so you must have legal standing against assets in the assets. This includes groups like beneficiaries, creditors, or legal claimants. To successfully pursue a matter in a court of law, it is also necessary to have evidence about the deceased individual’s estate plan that reflects your claim. This evidence can take several forms including another version of an estate planning document or proof of coercion. 


# 2 – Mediation


Legal mediation is also a possibility, which involves using a trained mediator who creates a contract among the impacted parties. There is no requirement that an agreement be reached and a mediator is not permitted to provide any type of legal advice. Instead, parties are permitted to bring legal representation to mediation. Many people discover that mediation is a particularly good option for smaller disputes or when confidentiality is important.


# 3 – Plan Ahead


The best way to avoid undesirable endings with estate plans is to take steps to prevent these consequences. For example, you should make sure to regularly communicate with your loved ones and should have conversations about estate planning goals.


Speak with an Experienced Estate Planning Lawyer

The estate planning process is complex, particularly when the results are undesirable, but an experienced estate planning attorney can help. Contact Ettinger Estate Planning today to schedule a free case evaluation.

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