An estate plan or will should theoretically determine what happens to someone’s property and to the people or pets that depend on an individual when they die. Unfortunately, some people die without leaving any sort of written instructions for the people that they love. Countless others will leave wills or estate plans, only to have family members challenge their wishes in probate court.
When a family member or potential heir challenges an estate in court, it can delay the distribution of assets and burn through estate resources. Estate litigation can occur for many different reasons, but the three issues below are among the most causes of modern probate litigation.
Concern about the validity of documents
Some people challenge the actual estate documents. When you look at the grounds for contesting a will, you will quickly recognize that most of them have to do with issues regarding the validity of the documents.
Sometimes, people challenge an estate plan because they believe the testator created those documents while struggling with dementia or otherwise lacking the testamentary capacity to create a valid will. Other times, family members may suspect fraud or undue influence. When people have questions about the legitimacy of estate documents, the chances of probate litigation drastically increase.
Worries about the behavior of the executor
The personal representative or executor of the estate has a lot of responsibility. The actions that they take can increase the value of everyone’s inheritance or diminish what people receive. Sometimes, family members challenge an executor because they suspect embezzlement. Other times, failing to act is the underlying reason why family members choose to challenge the individual handling the estate.
A family history of interpersonal conflicts
Sometimes, family members stretch the truth or manipulate circumstances for personal benefit during estate administration. Disputes among beneficiaries or disappointment among those who did not receive what they expected from the estate might lead to probate litigation.
Some individuals might claim that the testator made a mistake, such as forgetting to include a beneficiary. Disputes involving siblings that don’t get along with one another or children who resent a stepparent could potentially lead to lengthy probate litigation.
Understanding common causes of modern probate litigation can help those planning their estates avoid messy complications.