Probate Litigation: What You Need to Know

If you are considering creating a Last Will and Testament or other estate planning documents, you probably have questions about probate court and what goes on there. After all, making arrangements relating to money and property is something most people have to do at some point. It makes sense to have all the information you need to make the best decisions regarding your estate; when an estate plan is lacking, it can result in lengthy disputes between beneficiaries.

Here is what you need to know about probate litigation.

What is probate litigation?

Legal disputes centering around death and impairment related to age, disability, and illness sometimes result in probate litigation. Families disagreeing about who is to be appointed someone’s legal guardian or granted power of attorney might be unable to reach a compromise and have to take the case to court.

In the event of a death, disputes about trusts, assets to be distributed, wills, and gifts sometimes necessitate probate litigation. In these cases, the court steps in and renders a decision after hearing both sides. Because these disputes place a significant amount of strain on family relationships, it is beneficial to avoid probate litigation when possible through proactive estate planning. A probate attorney in your area can help to ensure that there are no problems with your estate plan that could lead to disputes in the future.

It’s relatively rare.

The overwhelming majority of probate cases do not end up being disputed in court. Probate litigation only occurs when there is some dispute about the validity of a will. Factors that might increase the risk of legal disputes include: multiple marriages, sibling rivalries, non-standard estate plans, and appointing fiduciaries (trustees or executors) who are not equipped to handle the responsibility. For example, some people wrongly believe they own their assets as separate property when in reality they may have converted to community or marital property. Ideally before marrying, the spouses should create a nuptial agreement that shows the proper ownership of their assets, which saves family members from dealing with any ambiguity in the event of their death.

Because most states have a very strict statute of limitations, it is best to seek out an estate planning attorney immediately if you think there is a problem with your estate.

It’s not just for feuding relatives.

Although family disputes about estates are a common reason for probate litigation, there are multiple factors that could lead a case to be argued in probate court. If the person creating a Last Will and Testament was manipulated or coerced by an outside party such as a caregiver, significant other, or financial planner, the person’s family can litigate to protect their relative’s assets. In cases of financial exploitation, probate litigation is an important legal recourse for victims and their families.

For help creating an estate plan that will preserve harmony and avoid probate litigation, contact Queens probate lawyer Richard Cary Spivack for a consultation, and go forward with peace of mind.