Probate litigation is required when beneficiaries dispute distribution of estate assets, or in cases where the decedent died intestate (without a Will). A probate attorney can be hired to oversee administration of the estate or to arbitrate family matters and ensure assets are distributed according to probate laws.
Probate litigation can suspend the probate process for months or even years. In cases where heirs contest the Will, the burden of proof rests with them. Initially, disgruntled heirs are responsible for probate lawyer fees. If it is determined the heir is entitled to certain estate assets, the heir can seek restitution of attorney fees through the probate court. In some cases, legal fees can be more than the estate is worth.
In instances where fees are higher than the value of the estate, the remaining beneficiaries are not held responsible for outstanding legal fees. However, they could be forced to liquidate assets such as real estate, jewelry, collectables, artwork, etc. Obviously, being forced to sell personal belongings of a beloved can have devastating effects.
If disputes can be settled outside of the courtroom, probate litigation fees can be reduced. Oftentimes, probate lawyers will offer mediation services in an effort to bring all beneficiaries together and negotiate a reasonable deal.
The most effective way to avoid probate litigation is to engage in estate planning while you are in good health. One of the primary reasons people contest Wills is they believe the decedent was impaired or under due influence.
Impaired can refer to many things and generally must be validated by a medical professional. Under due influence refers to when a person is critically ill and another person manipulates them to execute a Will to disinherit one of their heirs or otherwise alter distribution of assets.
When developing estate planning techniques, it is important to at least execute a Will, along with designating Power of Attorney authority and a Healthcare Proxy. These documents will ensure someone can continue paying your bills in the event of illness and provide directives on the type of healthcare you do or do not want if you are unable to speak on your own behalf.
Estate planning is particularly important when minor children are involved. Guardianship is established through the Last Will and Testament. If guardianship is not designated, children become a ward of the court until foster care or adoption can be arranged.
When probate litigation takes place, the only winners are the attorneys. Executing a Will is not a difficult matter. Many assets can avoid probate by designating transfer-on-death and payable-on-death beneficiaries. Individuals with estates valued at $100,000 or more should consider placing assets inside an irrevocable life insurance trust or living trust.
If you would like to learn more about estate planning, probate litigation, working with probate lawyers and other life matters, we invite you to browse our all-inclusive probate article library. New articles are added each week, so please take a moment to bookmark SimonVolkov.com.
If you are entitled to probate inheritance and in need of cash for inheritance, contact Simon Volkov today. Simon specializes in probate real estate and offers a variety of options for liquidating inheritance assets.