What Is Probate Litigation, and How Can I Prevent It?

Planning ahead for what you want to happen with your belongings and assets after passing away is not exactly something people want to think about. It can be emotional to imagine a time when you have left your family behind, but having a strong estate plan can enable those you love the most to get a piece of your legacy promptly and without legal road bumps.

It is recommended that people who are writing an estate plan receive guidance from a lawyer to help avert their estate from going through probate litigation. Here, we have answered questions about probate litigation and what you can do to prevent your loved ones from having to deal with this in the future.

What exactly is the process of probate?

When someone dies, their property and other belongings go through what is referred to as “probate,” where assets are distributed based on the terms written in their will. Probate is led and managed by the state court. Any assets owned that are going to be distributed to beneficiaries may be subject to probate. 

Why does probate litigation happen?

Probate litigation can arise when there is a dispute amidst the probate process. Typically, probate litigation begins when someone believes a wrongdoing was committed at any point during probate. Any interested party of the deceased’s estate can obtain legal representation and file a petition to the court.

Examples of reasons that probate may happen include: 

  • Contested will: this type of contest challenges the entire validity of the will. 
  • Executor fee disputes: when it is believed that the representative has overcharged the estate for their services. 
  • Spousal elective share: a surviving spouse exercises his or her right to claim part of the deceased’s estate. 
  • Formal accountings: if someone suspects that the executor has not provided a record to the beneficiaries regarding how the estate is being managed or used.
  • Administrator appointments: when there is no will and the family cannot reach an agreement on who should act as Administrator. 
  • Trustee removals: a dispute related to the person who was appointed trustee. 
  • Guardianship disputes: related to probate litigation, where someone is appointed the Guardian if the relative had become incapacitated or unable to care for themselves and didn’t establish a Durable General Power of Attorney. 

How can someone avoid probate litigation?

Depending on your circumstances, a probate lawyer, like a probate lawyer in Sacramento, CA, may suggest taking certain steps towards preventing the chances of probate litigation. Your lawyer may advise that the testator creates a “self-proving” will by signing this document in the presence of a notary and witnesses. The testator and witnesses provide a signature on a notarized affidavit to confirm their identity and are aware that they are signing a will. 

Estate planning can be challenging to do alone, which is why many people consult with a reputable lawyer in their area for guidance. It is in the best interest of a testator to confirm their estate plan is legally valid to help reduce the chances of probate litigation later on. 

Thanks to Yee Law Group, PC for their insight into what probate litigation is, and how you can prevent it.