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Probate Litigation

Probate Litigation Attorney in Cleveland

There are many reasons why a probate estate requires litigation. 

The Law Offices of Daniel McGowan, LLC is a full-service law practice, with extensive experience in the areas of litigation and trial practice, elder law, and probate law and trust law.  Daniel McGowan has built a reputation for being accessible and for his thoughtful and innovative manner in solving probate problems and other civil disputes. 

In its simplest form, the probate process is meant to settle the debts of a decedent and to distribute remaining assets in accordance with a Last Will and Testament, or lacking a Will, in accordance with Ohio law. 

But life is rarely simple. And many common issues arrive when settling estates in Ohio, including: 

  • Trust Litigation
  • Allegations of Fraud
  • Challenges to Wills and Trusts
  • Contesting a Will 
  • Incapacity, Incompetence, and Undue Influence
  • Inheritance Disputes
  • Concealment of Probate Assets
  • Appointment and Removal of Fiduciaries
  • Breach of Fiduciary Duty
  • Financial Abuse or Exploitation of the Elderly
  • Abuse of Powers of Attorney
  • Appointment and Removal of Guardians
  • Guardianship Disputes
  • Settlement of Estates Involving Family Businesses

Because the probate process in Ohio is meant to finalize a decedent’s estate, the best time to seek the advice of a probate attorney in Cleveland is during the probate process, not after you disagree with case settlement or the distribution of assets. 

Ohio Probate Court Process

At the start of probate, a person is appointed to administer the estate, to safeguard decedent’s property, and make sure it is properly distributed after all verified debts are paid. If there is a Will, this person is usually named in the Will and is called an executor. If there is no Will or no person is named in the Will, this person is appointed by the probate court and is called an administrator. 

The executor or administrator may be an individual, a bank or a trust company. In many cases, disputes begin at this early state as an executor or administrator will wield power second only to a judge. 

Common probate tasks include: 

  • Caring for the decedent's property;
  • Collecting payments due the estate, including interest, dividends and other income;
  • Collecting debts, claims and notes due the decedent;
  • Determining the names, ages, addresses and degree of relationship of all heirs;
  • Determining the names, ages and addresses of all beneficiaries, if there is a Will;
  • Investigating the validity of all claims against the estate and paying all outstanding obligations;
  • Planning for all relevant estate and income tax returns when required and making the required payments;
  • Carrying out the instructions of the probate court pertaining to the estate and distributing the assets of the estate to the heirs.

Intestate and Out-of-Court Asset Distribution 

Undue influence and disagreements in cases involving multiple Wills are common. However, cases in which a decedent dies without a Will, as well as cases involving significant assets distributed outside the probate process, also commonly lead to litigation. 

Beneficiaries are often surprised to learn about the many ways assets can be distributed without going through the probate process. This is another reason why hiring a Cleveland probate lawyer is the best bet when it comes to protecting your rights. Non-probate property includes property the decedent and another person held as joint tenants with right of survivorship; property held in a trust; accounts that are payable on death (POD) or will transfer on death (TOD) to a named beneficiary; and insurance or retirement benefits that are payable to a named beneficiary.

Those who die without a Will are considered to have died intestate and their assets will be distributed under Ohio law. This can cause significant issues in cases where couples separated but never officially divorced, or in cases where step-children or other non-traditional family arrangements (including same-sex marriages or partnerships) should be counted among a decedent’s preferred heirs. Under Ohio law, intestate estates are distributed to a decedent’s closest living relatives beginning with a legal spouse, followed by children, surviving parents and siblings. 

The Law Offices of Daniel McGowan, LLC, represents clients in probate and estate matters throughout the Cleveland area, including Lakewood, Rocky River, Fairview Park, Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights, South Euclid, East Cleveland, Linndale, Brooklyn, Parma, Brook Park. Newburgh Heights, Cuyahoga Heights, Brooklyn Heights, Warrensville Heights, Maple Heights, Garfield Heights, Bratenahl and Euclid.

Call 216-242-6054 today for a free and confidential consultation.

Law Offices of Daniel McGowan, LLC is a full-service law practice, with extensive experience in the areas of litigation and trial practice, elder law, and probate law and trust law. The information on this website, however, is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. Each legal situation is unique and you should consult with a reputable attorney regarding your specific circumstances.
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