Whether you are a testator (the person creating a last will), an executor managing an estate or a beneficiary for an estate, it is usually in your best interest to minimize the amount of conflict involved in probate administration.
When an estate winds up challenged or dragged through the courts, a significant amount of the assets can wind up spent on court costs and other fees. Knowing what some of the most common causes for probate litigation and conflicts are can help everyone involved with an estate make better decisions.
Family members and heirs litigate out of disappointment or shock
If your sibling went through their entire adult life assuming that your parents would leave both of you equal amounts of the estate, only to later find out that your parents favored you and left you far more than them, your sibling may feel slighted and angry. Their emotions may push them to challenge the last will.
The same is often true of children who find themselves disinherited in favor of a stepparent. When people don’t know what the wishes of the deceased were, they will likely have unrealistic expectations that can lead to disappointment and estate challenges or litigation.
People litigate when they suspect someone affected the last will
Estates can represent sizeable amounts of money, so it’s little surprise that there are those who might attempt to manipulate these documents for their own gain. In some cases, manipulation can give other people grounds to challenge a last will.
Ways that people affect someone’s last will could include:
- Exerting undue influence on someone in order to coerce them into making changes
- Getting someone to make changes when they no longer have the testamentary capacity to do so and are easily manipulated
- Outright fraud, which could include creating a document and forging signatures or possibly tricking someone into signing a last will without understanding its contents
Testators can reduce estate challenges by being straightforward with their family members and loved ones about their plans. Heirs and beneficiaries can try to familiarize themselves with their loved one’s intentions and accept that an inheritance is not something they are entitled to. Estate administrators can do their best to be transparent in their work and to provide accurate information to beneficiaries and family members.