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Probate litigation challenges university development plans

Probate litigation can be a means by which families ensure the intentions of a deceased loved one are carried out. Nevada residents may be interested to learn the heirs of the former owners of Belward Farm -- a Civil War-era farm -- have filed a lawsuit against Johns Hopkins University. The probate litigation centers on the terms of a 1989 agreement that transferred ownership of the farm, located in Maryland, to Johns Hopkins University. The heirs claim the agreement stipulates that the property be used only for "academic purposes, research or medical care". It is also stipulated that no more than 1.4 million square feet can be developed. However, it is believed by the property's heirs that Johns Hopkins' plan to develop 4.7 million-square-foot campus and science park on the property violates the terms of the agreement.

The Belward property is located within an area designated as the Life Sciences Center. Within the next 30 years, about 17.5 million square feet of commercial space and 9,000 apartments or homes will be developed in the center; and it is likely that the university's plans are integral to this overall outline. The heirs claim that Johns Hopkins devised the development plan without consulting them. They said they made their objections known to Johns Hopkins early in the process of development, but that the university maintained its new plan is not at odds with the original 1989 agreement.

While it remains to be seen how this dispute will be resolved, the family most surely benefitted by contacting a lawyer when they believed that the terms of the agreement were not being honored. Trying to interpret the intentions of a benefactor can sometimes lead to different conclusions. This kind of conflict can quickly become probate litigation when an estate is involved. When such litigation occurs in Nevada, it is beneficial to have sound legal advice. Speaking with an attorney experienced in family law can be an important part of protecting important assets and honoring the intention of the decedent.

Source: Maryland Community News, "Belward Farm heirs sue Johns Hopkins," Kevin James Shay, Nov. 11, 2011

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