We are a Veteran Owned Business, providing 20% discounts for Veterans, First Responders, Elementary and High School teachers. We remain open during the shutdown period, so please contact us to set up a phone or Zoom meeting. Taking care of you and your family, It's What We Do!

Skip to Content
Klenk Law

 Will Contest

Posted on Mon Nov 16, 2020, on Will Contests and Will Challenges

Will Contest Law Firm Philadelphia, PA

 A Will Contest is sometimes necessary.  The contest can be about a will’s validity or, in this case, about how to interpret a will’s terms.

Few legal issues are more emotionally charged than contentious estate-related claims. When someone clearly expresses their wishes, the hope is that those affected by those wishes will respect them. However, situations arise wherein the will creator’s intent is unclear. Perhaps also the legality of the will itself. 

An Example of a Will Contest Over a Will’s Terms.

Take, for example, the case of brothers Gary W. Thomson and James W. Thomson-Caliendo.  Their mother, Eleanor, divided her estate between her five children. Presumably, because of Gary’s troubled past, his mother placed his share in a trust. Despite Gary and James being estranged for years, Eleanor named James as trustee. Things started fine, but then Gary became displeased. James didn’t distribute any significant funds to cover Gary’s living expenses.  As a result, Gary asked the court to dissolve the trust. If the trust would not be dissolved, Gary asked that James be removed as the trustee.

The lower court chose neither to dissolve the trust nor to remove James as the trustee. However, the court ordered James to distribute $5,000 monthly to Gary.  Provided that Gary passed quarterly drug testing. The court made this determination, in part, because James was found to have abused his discretion.  The court found he errored in how he chose to administer the trust.

The Appeal

James filed an appeal.  He believed the lower court had made mistakes. James felt the will contest over the will’s terms had been decided incorrectly.

  1. He believed the court didn’t emphasize the Will’s terms. He believed the court errored by ignoring a key term. The requirement that James should be satisfied of Gary’s “sobriety, employment, and financial situation before being eligible for a trust distribution”?
  • James also believed the court errored in finding he abused his discretion. This error ultimately leading to the scenario in which James is effectively no longer determining the trust distribution amounts.

The Appeal’s Court Decides.

The appeals court agreed with James that the lower court had improperly inhibited James’s ability to ensure Gary’s compliance with the trust’s requirements.  Eleanor granted James “sole and absolute discretion” in this regard.  The appeal court ruled the lower court compromised James when it ordered that monthly distributions of $5,000, provided that Gary remained substance-free. This order also didn’t allow for any change in circumstance that might make a $5,000 monthly distribution excessive or insufficient to meet Gary’s needs. The appeals court chose to vacate this part of the order accordingly.

The court agreed with Gary that “James showed a persistent unwillingness and inability to administer the trust in” Gary’s interests. However, as James’s administration of the trust didn’t meet the legal standard to overturn his status as a trustee, James remains the trustee.

The Outcome.

This outcome illustrates how emotionally challenging, practically consequential, and contentious will contest, trust management, and estate planning disputes can be. At the end of the day, Gary’s share of the estate continues to be maintained by his brother. Even though two courts have found that James has proven to be unwilling to administer Gary’s estate share in his best interests. It is unclear whether Eleanor would approve of how this situation has unfolded. As a result, this situation serves as a powerful reminder that estate plans need to be constructed in ways that anticipate such challenges.

Avoiding a will contest is best. Having an experienced estate planning attorney assist in creating an estate plan can help avoid such issues. But, if you can’t avoid a will contest, having an experienced will contest lawyer is essential.

For more information about contesting a will, please contact a Will Contest Law Firm Philadelphia, PA residents recommend. Call us today at Klenk Law.

Tags:

Will Contest, Will Contest Lawyer

What Our clients are saying

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Peter provided outstanding advice and preparation of a will and trusts.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Peter was excellent. He explained everything very clearly and is super friendly. My wife and I originally tried using a lawyer through group legal coverage, but unfortunately the old adage - "you get what you pay for" - applied to the other lawyer, and we decided to go with a real professional.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

When it came down to picking the right attorney to handle my affairs, I knew right away it was this firm. From speaking to their secretary to speaking to Peter I knew I was making the right decision. After only a few mins Peter knew right away what I was looking for and handled all my questions professionally and even gave me great feedback that put my mind at ease. All that without even giving a single penny! So of course I hired him! So far so good...

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

AWESOME LAWYER! Peter Klenk is an exceptional attorney and a very nice person! Today I spoke with Peter about estate planning and was impressed with by his professionalism, cordiality, and attention to detail. I highly recommend Klenk Law for probates, wills, trusts, and other issues germane to estate planning!

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Great friendly staff

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Tremendous firm with bright, kind and tenacious people. Great representation for our family.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

I'm totally satisfied with Klenk Law. Peter has a great legal mind with the personality of the guy next door.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Everything about my experience was a 10+! Peter and his staff made what I thought would be a difficult process easy and understandable. Every detail was handled correctly. No other firm could possibly do better than Klenk Law!

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Peter and his staff are very responsive and always willing to help my clients and in a cost efficient manner.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Like another reviewer, I contacted Peter through his website using the free consultation link, for a question regarding PA inheritance taxes. The question was quite technical and difficult to explain, and the answer was nowhere to be found on the web. Peter grasped precisely what I was asking, and provided a clear, helpful response (with a touch of humor) the very next day.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Answered my question quickly and referred me to a colleague that could handle my problem

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Mr. Klenk, quickly understood the circumstances presented and provided clear and concise advice. This advice provided me with the information I required to progress the case to my advantage.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Peter is excellent. I had a very complicated situation with my parents' estate planning and potential Medicaid needs. Peter was very knowledgeable in estate planning matters, able to define the best solution for the situation. Additionally, he was congenial and able to communicate effectively to my senior citizen parents the benefits of estate planning. He earned my trust, and more importantly, my parents' trust in a 45 mins consultation period. Highly recommend Peter. He is very easy to work with.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Peter recently gave a presentation about Wills & Trusts at my employer, and it was fantastic! He was extremely knowledgeable and provided valuable information to the group. People were very engaged and asked several questions, all of which Peter thoroughly answered. Personally, my husband and I have selected Peter to help us with our estate planning, and he has been very helpful in providing us with all of the information we need to provide a secure future for our family. Thank you, Peter!

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Peter provided outstanding advice and preparation of a will and trusts.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Peter explained things in a way that was easy to understand. Everything was done in the time frame he said it. Could not have been better!

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

You & your staff are the best thank you for everything.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Peter and his staff handled all of our needs in a very professional and timely matter.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Peter Klenk made a complex subject understandable and allowed us to move forward with our estate planning. He was patient with our questions and creative in the solutions he proposed.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Peter explained a complex subject very clearly, helped us to decide the best approach to managing our estate and then made it very easy for us to execute the required documents. He will be a valuable resource for years to come and clearly has a great understanding of estate law that will lead to innovative solutions for us. I would unhesitatingly recommend him for estate planning.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Fantastic customer service. Very personable and most importantly they provide great explanations of what is required based on your individual needs. Highly recommend Klenk Law for anyone that needs to create a will and estate documents.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Always professional and very responsive. Everyone on the staff that I have worked with. I look forward to continuing our relationship.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Surprisingly easy

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Affable...yet surprisingly cerebral estate planning atty. High marks all the way around.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Peter and his associates made things easy for us.

Let us put our expertise to work for you.

Free consultation within 24 hours.