Estate Cases

Estate Cases in the United States

Disputes over the succession of real and personal property. An estate, in a broad sense, is property owned by a person. This property may be real or personal. Real property is land and anything like a building on it. Personal property, on the other hand, includes items that can be moved or carried. Civil disputes arise over property in a number of ways, but one of the most common is when someone dies. The question is what becomes of the estate of the deceased. This issue is addressed by the law of succession. Generally, a person will be allowed to convey an estate in any way he or she wishes. This is normally done under terms of a will. Even with a will, however, challenges may arise surrounding the competence of the deceased to convey the estate in the manner chosen. Close relatives who have been disinherited are the most likely to contest a will. Conflicts are far more likely when a person dies without a will, or intestate. In these situations, the estate is distributed to heirs under terms of state succession law. If succession is contested, probate proceedings resemble the fact-finding found in other civil trials. Otherwise, estate matters are handled in a largely administrative, almost clerical fashion by probate courts.

See Also

Probate Court (Civil Process).

Analysis and Relevance

Probate courts, which proceed under terms of state law, are designed to ensure the proper succession of estates. Residence of the deceased and the location of any real property determine which state law applies. Estate cases are more straightforward if a will distributes property or if an executor of the estate is designated by the deceased. Even in the presence of a will, a probate court is responsible for attending to any claims from creditors of the deceased prior to distributing any assets. Often the stakes in estate cases are substantial, which in turn elevates the protential for conflict. Protecting the estates of living persons also falls under the jurisdiction of most state probate courts. It may be that a person is unable to handle his or her own financial affairs. In such situations, most probate courts are empowered to appoint legal guardians or conservators. A guardian may or may not be a relative. The guardian has legal power to make judgments concerning the care of another as well as oversee that person’s estate. A conservator may be appointed for a shorter period of time to handle financial matters. Courts maintain supervision over guardianships and conservatorships and require periodic reports on the status of the person’s affairs.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Estate Cases from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Estate Cases: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Estate Cases. This part provides references, in relation to Estate Cases, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Estate Cases by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Estate Cases and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Estate Cases or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Estate Cases and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Estate Cases. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Estate Cases should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Estate Cases when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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