4 Common Causes Of Probate Litigation
Generally, after the death of a testator, a Will is supposed to ensure that asset division happens smoothly. Unfortunately, the probate process does not always run smoothly. Probate is a legal process that involves identifying and gathering a deceased person’s assets, paying a decedent’s debts, and distributing a decedent’s assets to their beneficiaries. After the death of a testator, it is not uncommon for problems to arise during the probate process. Probate litigation is common because when money and a decedent’s family members are involved, disagreements are bound to ensue. Unfortunately, probate litigation can tear families apart. Also, probate litigation usually leads to the spending of significant estate assets on court costs and other fees.
With that said, below are four common causes of probate litigation.
Survivors Feeling Left Out
Often, individuals assume that if a testator loves them, they must leave them the biggest share of assets. Because of this, it is common for survivors to try and challenge a Will when they receive less than they think they deserve. For example, an individual might try to contest a Will if they feel their deceased parent favored their sibling over them. Unfortunately, when individuals are not aware of the decedent’s last wishes, they may have unrealistic expectations, leading to dissatisfaction and probate litigation.
Suspicion That Someone Affected the Last Will
Cases of people manipulating testators for their own gain are common. In some cases, survivors might choose to challenge a Will if they suspect that someone affected it. Often, people affect last Wills by;
- Exerting undue influence on testators. For instance, an influencer might influence a testator to make some changes that favor them (the influencer).
- Getting someone to sign a Will or make changes to it when they don’t have the testamentary capacity to do so.
- Outright fraud.
Claims of Breach of Fiduciary Duty
An estate’s personal representative and any other parties with roles in the probate process have a legal obligation to ensure that whatever they do, serves to carry out the decedent’s final wishes. Suppose an executor breaches their fiduciary duty (legal obligation). In such a case, beneficiaries may try to remove them. Beneficiaries may also try to remove an executor if they suspect wrongdoing on the executor’s part. If beneficiaries prove their case, an executor will be removed since the court has the authority to remove anyone who fails their duties. An executor may be removed if, for instance, they fail to comply with the law or terms of the estate planning instruments.
Large Creditors’ Claims
Usually, creditors’ claims need to be paid before beneficiaries and heirs can receive their share of assets. However, when creditors make large claims on an estate, heirs and beneficiaries may decide to make them prove they are owed the money they claim the estate owes them. This often leads to litigation.
Contact Us Today for Legal Help
If you need help creating an estate planning document that will make it less likely for disputes to arise after your death or with the probate process, contact a skilled Fort Lauderdale probate & guardianship attorney at the law offices of Joyce A. Julian, P.A., today.