The death of one individual can impact the lives of countless others. Family members may suffer profound grief, as well as a sudden loss in financial and practical support. Friends and even coworkers may also grieve the death of an individual and may have an interest in their estate in some cases.
Often, probate proceedings are a technical process in which someone carries out an individual’s last wishes or cooperates with the courts to enforce state law regarding the repayment of someone’s obligations and the distribution of their property. Some estates end up embroiled in conflicts that lead to lengthy litigation. Probate litigation delays asset distribution and can reduce the total value of the estate. These are some of the most common reasons for disputes over someone’s estate.
Disinherited family members
Few things prompt angry reactions to the reading of someone’s will as quickly as someone’s realization that they aren’t inheriting anything. While it may have been an intentional choice, it could also pave the way to challenges in probate court. Individuals who expected to inherit from an estate but who are not included in estate planning documents may initiate litigation and claim that the testator left them out by accident.
Suspicions of fraud or undue influence
Sometimes, family members have reason to suspect that other parties may have inappropriately influenced the terms of someone’s estate plan. In situations where there is reason to suspect fraud or where family members believe that a caregiver or other beneficiary may have exerted undue influence on the testator, the estate may end up the subject of litigation.
Concerns about the testator’s health
In scenarios where someone’s health was already in decline at the time that they created their estate plan, beneficiaries and family members might try to raise a claim that they were unable to create valid documents based on their lack of testimony. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other age-related issues could potentially lead to claims of someone lacking the capacity to create enforceable documents.
Interpersonal conflict within a family and disappointment from those who expected to inherit valuable property are among the top causes of probate litigation. Recognizing when your situation may require court intervention can help you determine if you need to pursue probate litigation.