People end up in probate court for a handful of different reasons. Sometimes, they are just there for probate oversight during estate administration. Other times, they may need a guardianship to protect an aging loved one.
However, some of the most complex cases that go through the probate courts involve probate litigation. People with concerns about an estate plan or the behavior of the personal representative of an estate may litigate the matter so that the courts can resolve things.
Whether you thank you may need to initiate a probate lawsuit or believe you may soon face one because of your involvement with an estate, there are three things you probably need to know.
Probate litigation only occurs for good reason
Many frustrated family members feel like they want to file a lawsuit when they read what their loved one left them in the estate plan. However, dissatisfaction with an inheritance is not grounds to initiate probate litigation.
Someone wanting to bring a claim in front of the courts typically either needs to have a concern about how someone has managed the estate or about the documentation for the estate. For example, family members who believe a testator lacked legal capacity at the time they drafted a new will could challenge the revised version of the estate plan. Also, those who believe the representative has engaged in misconduct might challenge that individual’s role.
Probate litigation can come with significant consequences
A dispute in probate court can complicate estate administration. The process of settling the estate may take much longer and cost substantially more if litigation is necessary.
In certain scenarios, litigation could potentially affect someone’s right to inherit from an estate. If the testator included a no-contest clause, a frivolous challenge of their last wishes might result in that person’s disinheritance.
Initiating probate litigation may be the only way to protect your inheritance
When the executor of an estate mismanages assets, they could potentially diminish the value of what others inherits substantially.
Only through timely action can beneficiaries and family members who question the actions or inaction of the representative of an estate protect their inheritance from incompetent or unethical management. When you have reason to suspect fraud or undue influence affected the estate plan, only by addressing the issue in court can you potentially protect the legacy your loved one really wanted to leave behind.
Although probate litigation can be emotional and expensive, it can also be an important way to protect the legacy of someone you love who has recently died. Learning about probate litigation can make estate proceedings less intimidating.