Probate is the process by which a will is validated and an estate is administered after someone dies. Although many probate proceedings go off without a hitch, if a will is contested or other disputes arise, probate litigation may be necessary. Whether you are an executor of a will or need to address problems with the administration of an estate, an experienced probate litigation attorney can help you understand the law and protect your interests.
Types of Probate Litigation
Will or Trust Contests
To challenge the validity of a will or trust, you must show that there is a legitimate reason and that you have the standing to do so as an heir or potential beneficiary.
Common reasons for contesting a will include:
Diminished or lack of testamentary capacity – For a will to be valid, the testator (person who signed the will) must be 18 years of age and be of sound mind. This means that they have sufficient mental capacity to understand what property they own and how they want their possessions to be distributed, even if their memory has been impaired by age or disease.
Undue influence –If someone inappropriately influences a testator to draft or amend their will in a way that benefits that person, there may be cause to contest a will for undue influence.
Fraud – When a will or trust is signed by someone who believed they were signing another document with different provisions, it may be considered fraud.
Forgery – Tampering with or the unauthorized signing of a will or trust is a forgery, which is grounds to contest the document.
Errors –Each state has laws dictating how a will or trust must be drafted and signed to be legally valid. For example, if a will is signed without witnesses, signatures are missing, or important text is omitted, it could be considered invalid.
Other Probate and Estate Administration Issues
Some other matters that can lead to probate litigation include estate administrator appointments, executor fee disputes, trustee removals, guardianship disputes, spousal share claims, and requesting a formal accounting of an estate. One way to help your loved ones avoid a lot of these problems is to work with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney when creating a will and estate plan.
How a Probate Litigation Attorney Can Help
Unfortunately, sometimes issues with an estate cannot be avoided. Family disputes can escalate quickly, which is an added stress when you are already grieving the loss of a loved one. A probate litigation attorney can help you keep a cool head, navigate the probate court system, and ensure that all procedural requirements and deadlines are met.
Having a knowledgeable lawyer who understands both beneficiaries’ and estate administrators’ viewpoints is critical. Your probate litigation attorney can help you negotiate disputes and hopefully come to an agreement without going to trial. However, if a reasonable agreement cannot be reached, probate litigation attorneys are experienced trial lawyers who can represent your interests in the courtroom and provide the compassionate legal support you need to get through tough times.