You probably already know that just because you've been named as an heir in your very wealthy relative's Texas estate, it doesn't mean that after he or she dies you can simply show up to the house and collect the items or money left to you. It wouldn't be that simple. Before allowing any distribution of assets, the executor or personal representative of the will must take several steps, including convincing the court of the will's validity. Depending on the circumstances, the process could actually drag on for some time.
It's understandable if you're hoping that won't be the case; most people in your situation feel the same. However, even though a family member properly executed the will in front of witnesses, a probate court still has to officially validate it, identify the assets of the estate and address all legal matters (including taxes) prior to any distribution.
This is where problems sometime arise
Although it's quite possible to be the sole heir named in someone's will, it's also very common to be one of several designated beneficiaries. In either case, if a contentious relationship exists between any of those involved, problems may surface when people begin to squabble after hearing the contents of the will. (In fact, many previously amicable relationships turn sour in such situations.) Some of the most common reasons why you might file a complaint in probate court contesting the will include the following:
- You might think that another (or others) received more than his or her fair share. This often leads to "grandpa-always-liked-you-better" type arguments.
- You might not have received a copy of the property and asset inventory.
- You might believe that the decedent was under duress when he or she executed the will.
- You might disagree with the probate court's appointment of the executor or personal representative of the estate.
- Someone, most likely a creditor, might claim that the estate failed to disclose all creditor information properly.
This list doesn't include all of the reasons for a will contest, but instead identifies some of the most common reasons why a person or group of people might contest a will. You probably need to know that strict time limits exist regarding the filing of probate litigation. If you or another heir plans to contest the will, don't wait too long. Otherwise, the probate court could refuse to hear the complaint.
Protecting a decedent's assets and helping heirs and beneficiaries avoid disputes remains a primary purpose of final wills and the probate system. Alas, the system is not full-proof and problems could arise. A Texas attorney experienced in probate litigation can provide tremendous support and resources when things fail to go as planned.