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Estate planning and the ancillary probate process

The carrying out of an estate plan can be shrouded in grief. Family members of a deceased individual are often struggling to find a way to cope with their loss, which oftentimes brings families together. Yet, when the details of an estate plan come to light, family members sometimes find themselves in a state of confusion and disbelief. To these individuals, the terms of an estate plan are counter to their expectations and their beliefs of what the testator wanted for the estate. These situations often lead to litigation.

Take, for example, the recently filed claim by two daughters of Pat Bowlen, the late owner of the Denver Broncos football team. They claim that the trust executed by Bowlen, which controls the team and its significant others, should be invalidated due to Bowlen lacking the mental capacity to know and appreciate what he was signing when he created the trust. Their attorney also claims that Bowlen may have been subjected to undue influence at the time of the trust's creation.

The attorney for the trustees claim that the daughters' petition is retaliatory in nature and comes only after they were told that they would not be selected to become controlling owners of the team. The matter of ownership is currently under arbitration under the NFL's rules, but the daughters' attorney believes that the matter should be dealt with in open court.

As this case illustrates, there can be a lot at stake when the contents of an estate plan come under scrutiny. This is why those who are creating or modifying an estate plan need to be extremely clear with their intentions and create the necessary legal vehicles to render those intentions legally viable. These individuals, along with those who believe that they have been cheated in an estate plan through some sort of wrongdoing, may want to sit down with a competent legal advocate to discuss their options moving forward.

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