Probate litigation has increased dramatically in the last decade due to the splintering of the family unit, an ever more litigious society and the increasing wealth in our country. Disputes over wills and estate administration can be acrimonious and tear families apart. However, if there has been misuse of assets from an estate or undue influence in the creation of a will, then litigation becomes a necessary evil.
I have been representing heirs, beneficiaries and executors in probate litigation since 2002 and my experience can often settle the acrimony early in the process.
The facts that create litigation during a probate proceeding usually involve events that happened before the deceased person died. The appointed power of attorney may have improperly handled funds or decided that the deceased "wanted them to have something extra" or a caretaker of an ill parent may decide they "deserve" or "are entitled to" more because of all the extra work they did. Someone may have unduly influenced the deceased or that person may have been incapacitated when they changed their estate plan or will.
A will can be contested if it was not properly executed, if the person lacked the legal capacity to do a new will, or if a person or caretaker exerted undue influence on the person to change the will in their favor. Time is of the essence if you need to contest a will so get legal advice right away.
The challenger of a will or estate administration may be able to his or her legal fees paid by the estate.