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What are common reasons for probate litigation?

Are you confused about estate planning? You are not alone. There are so many facets of law that can influence the formation of a solid plan.

Many believe a simple will covers the bases. That might be true sometimes. But a great deal can happen in your life in a short period of time. A will written 15, 10 or even five years ago, might not reflect today's reality. And then, there is the issue of probate.

One of the most common views about probate is that it is something to avoid at all costs. But those with experience in this area of law understand that it serves an important purpose. Probate is like putting a freeze on a particularly wealthy decedent's estate. Where a will exists, the court has time to determine its validity. Below are some of the common reasons that can trigger probate litigation.

  • Sibling rivalry: Family dynamics are often the result of decades of interaction. It's hard to predict what resentments might surface over estate provisions seen as unfair. If divorce and remarriage created a blended family, contested matters can increase exponentially.
  • Contests of will validity: A will might be challenged for many reasons including, if someone believes it doesn't reflect the decedent's real intent, there are suspicions the testator was subjected to undue influence or was not of sound mind and body at the time of signing.
  • Guardianship questions: If the testator failed to plan for the needs of a disabled dependent, a dispute over appointment of a guardian for that person could result.
  • Trust formation shortcomings: Accuracy of language in all estate planning documents is important. If wording of a trust appears faulty, suits to "fix" the terms might be brought. Alternatively, if the purpose the trust was established for no longer exists, there could be a suit for termination.
  • Failure of fiduciary responsibility: Beneficiaries who feel they have suffered damage because of malfeasance of fiduciary duty on the part of an estate's designated representative may file suit. Allegations might include a failure to comply with the law or terms of the estate planning instruments.

This is not a comprehensive list of probate litigation triggers. Nor is there any guarantee that the best laid estate plans can prevent litigation. But with the help of experienced attorneys, individuals can be confident their rights and interests will be strongly defended.

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