Many probate hearings are technicalities. The personal representative or executor of an estate will attend a hearing with their lawyer and present certain documentation to the courts. The end of the probate process will typically occur after all estate administration duties have been completed.
However, some probate hearings are contentious events wherein people present crucial evidence and accuse others of misconduct. Probate litigation is often a reflection of unusual circumstances, which means that there are certain noticeable trends to these cases. These are some of the most common reasons that people pursue probate litigation instead of simply weathering the estate administration process without intervening.
Concerns about documents
Most people trust the probate administration process to be fair and to uphold someone’s last wishes in accordance with their estate paperwork. However, sometimes the will or other testamentary documents produced after someone dies seem to contradict what they claimed to have wanted throughout their life. Families may question if fraud played a role in the creation of the documents.
They may also come to believe that someone may have exerted undue influence on the testator and convinced them to change their estate plan. There could also be concerns that the testator created or updated their paperwork when they lack testamentary capacity due to cognitive decline. Occasionally, the documents seem legitimate but the terms included in them are a violation of an individual’s rights under state law. Any of these scenarios might justify family members challenging a will.
Concerns about estate administration
Sometimes, family members and beneficiaries will initiate a probate lawsuit because they think the executor or administrator of the estate has done something inappropriate or will do something shortly that will damage the overall value of the estate. People may initiate probate litigation to prevent someone from selling estate assets or to preserve estate assets until the courts resolve a conflict.
Concerns about an executor
Perhaps someone has failed to do the bare minimum to appropriately manage the estate and has thereby diminished the value of its assets. Maybe someone has stolen or embezzled from the estate or simply proven incompetent and incapable of managing the resources as they should.
When family members question the actions taken by the executor of an estate, they may be able to ask the courts to remove that individual from their role and replace them with someone else who will either abide by state law or follow the instructions provided by the testator.
Those who are concerned about the actions of someone with authority over an estate or are worried about the terms included in someone’s estate planning documents may have a reason to initiate probate litigation. Pursuing probate litigation with the assistance of an experienced legal professional can potentially protect an individual’s inheritance rights and also uphold the true intended legacy of someone who has recently passed away.