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Q: Can an estate be sued?

New York and New Jersey estate planning attorneys help people craft a unique estate plan designed to protect them and their loved ones when incapacity and/or death strike.

A Last Will and Testament, commonly called a “Will”, is a document that disposes of your assets in the manner in which you desire and also serves other purposes such as designating the legal guardians of any minor children, and more. In addition to a Will, which distributes your probate assets, some people establish living trusts.

Trusts have many different purposes, and depending on how they are set up, they may sometimes protect your assets from creditors or help qualify you for Medicaid in the event you need long-term nursing home care someday. Without proper planning, some people can lose their life’s savings and jeopardize their family’s financial security when the unexpected happens.

As part of an estate administration, the executor or administrator of an estate may find that a third party or creditor is making a claim or filing a lawsuit against the estate. Sometimes, this could be for such things as unpaid medical bills, credit card fees, and other usual expenses that haven’t been resolved. But in some cases, unique and potentially costly lawsuits may be filed against an estate.

For example, if the testator (the person who made the will) caused a car accident in which someone else was injured or killed, the victim (or their closest surviving family members) could sue the testator’s estate for compensatory damages for their losses.

Such was the case where a man who had reportedly just come from visiting his wife’s grave was killed by an allegedly drunk driver who was driving 82 mph with a blood alcohol level over three times the legal limit and the presence of pain relievers and antidepressants in her system, according to officials. Because the woman also died in the crash, the man’s surviving family members have commenced legal action against the woman’s estate for his wrongful death.

While none of us knows what the future holds, meeting with a skilled estate planning attorney is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones’ future from the loss of your hard-earned assets.

If you need an initial estate plan or would like to modify an existing estate plan, the experts at Merlino & Gonzalez can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

From our offices in Staten Island, New York, and East Brunswick, New Jersey, we represent clients in both states in all matters of estate planning and real estate law.