What Causes Probate Litigation?
Even the best estate planning does not guarantee smooth probate administration when the time comes. If children survive a deceased person, probate litigation may occur. A deceased person’s children are the chief reason for disputes over wills—for example, one sibling may feel wronged and take other siblings to court for probate litigation.
Probate litigation is an action by the probate court to resolve a dispute relating to a deceased person’s wishes. Any number of situations may call for probate litigation, from guardianship contests to trust termination. Members of the family who feel their loved one’s last wishes deserve a second look may file for probate litigation, which can take months or years to settle.
During probate litigation, the plaintiff(s) may challenge the validity of a will, request the court rule on the legal meaning of a particular part of a will, or involve lawsuits against a fiduciary agent who negligently caused damage to the beneficiaries. Risks that increase the chances of probate litigation include:
- Multiple marriages with no prenuptial agreements
- Dysfunctional families with many people who have different desires
- A “nonstandard” estate plan that makes a controversial decision, such as cutting out a child or giving a gift to a mistress
- Appointing a poor fiduciary agent
- Faulty or conceived estate planning
A number of different factors contribute to the need for probate litigation. Basically, if someone in the family is unhappy about the results of probate administration, he or she can demand probate litigation. The litigation process can be very lengthy and complex, and the plaintiff(s) needs to hire a skilled probate lawyer to handle it efficiently.
How to Avoid Probate Litigation
In some families, probate litigation may be unavoidable, but in many situations, a deceased person’s preparations before death can go great lengths toward avoiding lengthy and stressful probate litigations. When a person carefully plans the fate of his or her estate, including large and small assets, investments, family businesses, etc., he or she can leave no room for argument. By working with an estate-planning lawyer to plan for the future with clarity and tact, you can maximize the benefits to your family while ensuring your exact wishes are upheld.
In over 40 years of probate litigation experience, Ted Smith Law Group, PLLC has learned that the more explanatory an estate plan is, the less likely the surviving family will enter probate litigation. For example, say you have to make a tough decision regarding who will inherit a family business. Your oldest son may assume he will inherit the company, but you may feel your second son is a better fit for a management position. These decisions can easily result in probate litigation after your death unless you clearly explain the reasons for your plan in a way that is calm and rational.
Need Help During Probate Litigation?
The steps involved in proper probate litigation can be difficult for families of a deceased person to handle. Probate litigation is often wrought with emotion, including anger and sadness. Probate attorneys are not therapists, but they often play the part of a family mediator in these tricky situations. Finding a lawyer you feel good about can increase the chances of an amicable resolution during litigation.
Contact a Fort Hood Probate Litigation Lawyer
Trust the probate attorneys at Ted Smith Law Group, PLLC, for honest, dependable legal representation. Ted Smith and his team of probate attorneys pride themselves on building a personal relationship with past and present clients. We know what it takes to successfully navigate delicate familial probate litigation. Contact us today for a free case evaluation, and find out the difference an experienced probate lawyer makes.