How Long Can Will Litigation Continue?

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Litigation over most wills does not continue for a very long time as courts want to have everything settled as quickly as possible. However, there are some wills that can be litigated for years, including one in Pennsylvania that a judge recently called the most litigated will in history.

Stephen Girard passed away in 1831. In his will, Girard created a trust that was to be used to create a school, Girard College. Litigation over the provisions of this will and trust has been brought several times over the years. Recently a judge made yet another ruling in the matter.

Most of the litigation has been over expanding the scope of the school. Originally, it was supposed to be a residential school for orphan boys. Over the years, the courts have allowed that scope to expand to include minorities, female students and children with one living parent. A recent post in The Elder Law Prof Blog, titled The Latest Ruling on ‘The Most Litigated Will in History, has the story of the latest litigation over Girard’s estate. This time the trustees wanted to change the trust to allow the school to offer classes to high school students and to do away with the residence hall. The court ruled that it would not allow that.

Obviously, Girard’s will is unusual. Most trusts end long before litigation can continue for almost 200 years. However, charitable trusts are different. They can see ongoing litigation over the terms of the gift as circumstances change. When that happens, courts have to decide what to do.

Reference: Elder Law Prof Blog (August 28, 2014) The Latest Ruling on ‘The Most Litigated Will in History

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