Probate courts are governed at the state level, and each location features different rules and requirements for how an estate is handled. One of the best ways to protect your wishes throughout a probate process, regardless of location, is to prepare strong estate documents in advance. Even if you have a will or other document, family members or others might contest it in court.
One reason wills are contested is that heirs are surprised by the contents or the assets being distributed. By speaking to heirs ahead of time and explaining your wishes to family members, you may head off any disputes that could arise later.
Heirs may also claim that a person created a will under undue influence from one or more parties. This is particularly common when a single beneficiary ends up with most or all of an estate or when the deceased may have been experiencing mental capacity issues at the time of the execution of a will.
Other reasons a will may be contested is that heirs or others simply don’t agree with how a deceased divided assets, set up conservatorships or appointed guardians. If certain information about creditors was not appropriately disclosed or if a beneficiary doesn’t fulfill his or her duties under an estate plan, a third party might also challenge a will.
Going through probate, even when there aren’t challenges, can be a tedious process. When challenges to estate documents occur, probate litigation can be drawn out for months or even years. Planning ahead does reduce the chance of probate issues, but heirs and others should be prepared to face some legalities during estate administration.
Source: NewsMax, “What Is Probate Litigation?,” accessed April. 09, 2015
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