Estate Litigation

The combination of the emotional loss experienced when a loved one passes away, and the transfer of wealth that occurs upon the death of a loved one, can create a perfect storm for disagreements among beneficiaries.  Also, poor health or reduced mental capacity of an elderly person can provide a ripe opportunity for an unscrupulous family member or caretaker to attempt to exploit a vulnerable adult.  Whether you have questions about contesting the validity of a Will or are defending a challenge to a beneficiary designation on a financial account, or need assistance filing a creditor claim or elective share claim against the decedent’s estate, the knowledgeable attorneys at the Vitollo Law Firm are available to represent you and ensure a result that is fair and in conformity with South Carolina law.

Will Contests
The most common grounds for contesting a Will are lack of capacity and undue influence.  Even if you doubt whether a document proffered as your loved one’s Last Will and Testament truly reflects your loved one’s wishes, it is important to carefully evaluate whether there is a valid reason to contest the Will, as the standard of proof for contesting a Will is very high.  Whether you are considering a challenge to a Will or are defending a challenge to a Will brought by another person, the attorneys of the Vitollo Law Firm are able to provide the legal counsel you need to determine your best options and to discuss any available alternatives, such as an elective share claim, family settlement agreement, or creditor’s claim based on a caretaker’s lien.

Contest of Non-Probate Transfers
While challenging a non-probate transfer can be procedurally more difficult than contesting a Will, a challenge can be brought against most non-probate transfers, including payable on death designations, beneficiary designations on a retirement account or life insurance policy, and challenges to the validity of an inter vivos trust.  While there are procedural differences, the grounds for contesting a non-probate transfer are very similar to those for contesting a Will, with the most common basis for a contest being lack of capacity and undue influence.  Whether you have questions about contesting a non-probate transfer or are defending a challenge brought by a third party, the attorneys at the Vitollo Law Firm are able to provide the representation you need to increase the likelihood of a favorable result.

Creditor Claims
The South Carolina Probate Code provides strict timelines and procedures for filing a creditor’s claim, and failure to adhere to the required procedures and time frame can result in your claim being lost.  Whether you are filing a claim against a decedent’s estate or responding to a claim filed by a third party, the attorneys at the Vitollo Law Firm can assist you in making sure you follow the proper procedures and put your best case forward.

Elective Share Claims
If your spouse creates a Will and does not include you as a beneficiary, you may have grounds to file an elective share claim, asserting your right to share as a beneficiary of your estate of your deceased spouse.  If you are married and your spouse intentionally leaves you of the estate or fails to leave an amount equal to the percentage specified by South Carolina law, you generally have the ability to file an elective share claim demanding a share of the estate, so long as you file within the time prescribed by statute.  The attorneys at the Vitollo Law Firm are prepared to advise of your rights and options under South Carolina law so that you can determine whether filing an elective share claim is in your best interest, as well as make sure your claim is timely filed in accordance with the procedures prescribed by South Carolina law.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty
An agent appointed to manage property for the benefit of some other person- including the personal representative of a decedent’s estate, the trustee of a trust, or the agent under a power of attorney- has certain obligations, known as “fiduciary duties,” to the intended beneficiaries of that property.  The most common example of a breach of fiduciary duty is the misuse of funds.  Other examples applicable in the context of the administration of a probate estate or trust estate include failure to prudently administer the estate using reasonable care, failure to expeditiously administer the estate in a reasonable timeframe, and failure to impartially administer the estate in the interests of all beneficiaries involved.  Whether you are a dissatisfied beneficiary or a fiduciary accused of impropriety, the attorneys at the Vitollo Law Firm can advise you of your rights and obligations under South Carolina law, and are able to provide the representation you need to proceed with confidence.