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How do probate disputes arise?

On Behalf of | Apr 21, 2024 | Probate Litigation

For many families, probate proceedings are a slow and frustrating necessity. The courts oversee the administration of larger estates and estates that contain certain types of valuable property, like real estate. That is only after the completion of probate proceedings that beneficiaries may finally receive their inheritances from an estate.

For other families, probate court is potentially a solution for conflicts that arise during estate administration. Siblings and other family members may end up fighting intensely over someone’s estate and may require the intervention of a probate judge to settle their disagreements. The following are some of the most common sources of probate conflict.

Concerns about an estate plan

Oftentimes, conflicts around estates relate to issues with the estate planning paperwork. People may question whether the documents are valid or if an outside party may have influenced the testator. Family members sometimes initiate probate litigation because they suspect undue influence or believe that the testator lacked capacity at the time when they drafted their documents. When someone contents or challenges a will, the entire family may end up taking sides in the dispute.

Concerns about fiduciary conduct

The personal representative overseeing the probate process should follow state law. It is also their duty to uphold the final wishes of the decedent and to act in the best interests of their beneficiaries. Families may end up embroiled in conflict when a personal representative steals from an estate, deviates from estate planning documents or fails to take necessary actions. Conflicts may lead to someone’s removal from their role or even orders to repay an estate if their actions diminished its value.

Claims by outside parties

Sometimes the conflict related to an estate comes not from beneficiaries but from parties owed money by the decedent. Tax authorities and creditors can take legal action to seek repayments during probate proceedings. Even Medicaid could demand compensation from someone’s estate for the benefits paid during someone’s last years of life.

Family members who know what to expect during probate can avoid unnecessary disputes. Testators who understand what may trigger family conflict and probate litigation could potentially create plans that are less likely to damage family relationships. Initiating probate litigation is sometimes the only way to resolve disputes about an estate, and families may need to prepare for the expense and delays caused by conflict.