One of the best decisions a person can make when it comes to estate matters is to leave a Last Will and Testament, setting out their last wishes for the distribution of their assets. As any party who has ever participated in probate work can tell you, things do not always go as planned. Sometimes, they go worse than anyone could have ever imagined. We all want to believe that after we are gone, our loved ones will work together peacefully and respect one another. But, often, this doesn’t happen.
There are a multitude of situations when probate litigation may arise. Each comes with its own unique set of family dynamics and circumstances. However, one thing almost always remains the same. Where there is a substantial amount of money or valuable assets at stake, the gloves often come off and the potential heirs come out of the woodwork. This can be especially true for blended families, where disputes may arise among an ex-spouse and current spouse, or biological children and step-children.
If any party chooses to contest the distribution of assets in an estate, the long process of probate litigation may begin. A standard probate matter without any objection takes six months to a year to administer. Where there are contests involved, the case may drag out for years. Objections can run the gamut from disputes regarding the validity of a will, determinations of mental capacity, or even undue influence in amendments to a will. In addition, families sometimes find surprises when they begin going through a deceased loved one’s belongings and financial matters. In some instances, there may have been a person involved that the family never even knew of.
One thing is for sure: probate litigation is a long, stressful, and complex process. It should never be handled alone, but, instead, should be guided by an experienced attorney.