Estate law is a sub-genre of property law that governs the manner in which an individual’s estate is handled. This includes overseeing how that person’s property is managed in both their lifetime, as well as after they are deceased or have become incapacitated. 

Specifically, the term “estate” refers to all of an individual’s personal belongings, real property, and intangible assets, such as patents or copyrights. Any debt and taxes on the property owned, may also be included as part of the estate.

It is therefore not surprising that estate law covers a broad range of legal matters, which includes virtually anything relating to a person’s real property and its financial aspects. 

One final important thing that you should know about estate law is that it often overlaps with laws concerning wills and trusts, and also, the rules that govern estate planning

Given the wide range of topics that estate law touches upon, you should therefore reach out to an estate lawyer in your area if you have any questions or concerns about a matter involving estate law issues. They will be able to guide you through the process of your particular issue and can also provide further legal advice about it.

What Does Estate Law Cover?

As previously mentioned, estate law is a broad field of law that covers matters, such as the following examples:

  • Estate Planning: Briefly, estate planning serves as a guide to others for how a person’s property will be distributed upon death or incapacitation. Aside from will and trust issues, estate planning also addresses other important items, such as organ donation, legal guardian matters, medical treatments, and even funeral arrangements.
  • Estate Administration: Estate administration specifically relates to the process of managing and distributing a person’s estate after they pass away.
    • This might be handled by their designated “executor”, or if they died without a will, their property will be distributed according to the laws set out in their particular jurisdiction.
  • Duties of the Executor: As just discussed, an executor handles the distribution of a deceased individual’s estate.
    • However, an executor (also called an administrator) is legally responsible for fulfilling certain duties and must carry out the deceased individual’s wishes in accordance with what is stated in their will. 
  • Distribution of Property: The way in which property gets distributed to the rightful beneficiaries is the ultimate goal of estate planning.
  • Debt: Any debts that an individual still owes will need to be addressed, even after they have become incapacitated or deceased. 

In addition, estate laws are based on the local and state statutes in a particular jurisdiction. Thus, they will often vary depending on the state involved. This can have an effect on how an estate legal issue is handled, which in turn, will impact the outcome of the solution to it.

  • For example, suppose a person initially owned a house in Florida, but then decided to sell it and move to an entirely different state. If their will document states that a particular beneficiary will receive their Florida house upon death and the will was not updated to show that they meant the house they owned in general (i.e., not just the Florida house), then a court will have to intervene to resolve this kind of estate issue. Otherwise, the surviving beneficiary may receive nothing.

Lastly, another major issue that is frequently impacted by the different laws enacted by each state is how property gets distributed to spouses, children, and other recipients when an individual becomes incapacitated, deceased, or divorced. 

This is why it may be a good idea to contact an estate attorney for advice when faced with one of these types of estate issues. 

What If Estate Laws are Violated?

Violations of estate laws can arise in a variety of situations, such as:

  • When two parties are engaged in a dispute over the estate property;
  • If there are probate challenges regarding the beneficiaries or executor’s actions connected to a will; or
  • There are issues with the actual estate documents themselves.

In such instances, the remedies for estate violations often include a solution that changes the way in which the property has been distributed among the beneficiaries to the will.

For issues that involve problems with an estate document, the court may sometimes permit the parties to rewrite the document, so long as the estate holder or administrator consents to have the document rewritten. 

Should I Hire an Estate Lawyer?

As discussed above, estate laws cover a broad range of topics that can have a direct impact on an individual’s property and possessions. Therefore, if you have any questions, concerns, or are involved in a dispute concerning estate laws, then you should consider contacting an estate lawyer in your area.

An experienced estate lawyer will be able to assist you with tasks, such as drafting, reviewing, and editing estate planning documents. 

In addition, a lawyer can also provide representation for any related court matters, should you and your loved ones become involved in an estate law dispute.