During the probate process, disputes may arise. Occasionally, these disputes escalate to litigation, which occurs when one party files a lawsuit against another.
What is Probate Litigation
The term, “probate litigation” refers to lawsuits filed in probate court – and the legal proceedings associated with resolving these lawsuits. Probate litigation may include:
- Contesting a will
- Disputing a trust
- Highlighting undue influence
- Disproving false claims from creditors
- Removing an executor for breaching their fiduciary duties
- And more
Beneficiaries may need probate litigation attorneys to file lawsuits against trustees and executors, and trustees and executors may need probate litigation attorneys to defend themselves from lawsuits.
Probate litigation lawyers help individuals, heirs, beneficiaries, executors, and trustees navigate disputes and find solutions.
What Goes Wrong During the Probate Process?
The probate process is designed to close out an individual’s financial affairs after they die – and pass their property onto their heirs and beneficiaries. Usually, the deceased person (also known as the decedent) names an executor in their will to handle “estate administration,” and guide their estate through the probate process.
If the decedent dies without a will, the court will appoint an executor, and their assets will go to their closest relatives under “intestate succession” laws. When this is the case, loved ones often argue over who should serve as the executor.
In most situations, the probate process begins with the decedent’s will. This is the first stage where something could go wrong. For example, the decedent could have been manipulated into changing their will while they were still alive. “Undue influence” is one of the most common reasons for contesting a will.
Family members may also contest a will if they were intentionally or unintentionally left off it. Certain family members, like spouses, have a legal right to inherit at least some of their loved one’s estate.
Even if everyone agrees with the will, problems can still arise. For instance, heirs and beneficiaries may disagree with how the executor is doing their job or how much they are charging for their services.
Creditors and other parties may also try to take advantage of large estates and sensitive situations.
When Someone Would Need a Probate Litigation Attorney?
An heir or beneficiary would need a probate litigation attorney if they had concerns about their loved one’s last will and testament, or they were left off the will even though they were entitled to some of the estate. Heirs or beneficiaries would also need lawyers if they had concerns about an executor’s behavior, including lack of transparency or misappropriation of funds.
An executor, on the other hand, would need a probate litigation attorney if they were accused of breaching their fiduciary duties, wanted to enforce a will, or needed to fend off illegitimate creditor claims.
Anytime a dispute arises during the probate process, interested parties should speak to an estate planning attorney. A good lawyer can represent individuals in situations where litigation is necessary – and discourage litigation in situations where more favorable solutions are possible.
If you are serving as a trustee or executor or have any concerns about your loved one’s final affairs, turn to Kennedy & Ruhsam Law Offices, P.A. for sophisticated legal advice. Our probate litigation attorneys have more than 65 years of combined experience, and we are committed to helping you find the most favorable solution in your unique situation.
We know how important your family, time, and money are to you, so we will provide you with honest, straightforward communication to help you make the best decision for yourself and your loved ones.