Probate can proceed in a smooth manner, but sometimes that is simply wishful thinking.
Complications may arise during the settling of an estate. Disputes may surface, for example, regarding the validity of a will, accusations that the legal representative (executor/administrator) engaged in wrongdoing, or issues with payment to creditors . The chance for litigation is possible in any of these scenarios and others, as well. Any of these reasons can lead to a long, drawn-out probate process that may evolve into litigation.
Here are some specific reasons why litigation may occur during probate:
- Contesting of the will: Wills are disputed by heirs, such as spouses or children, or by people who were mentioned in a previous will,, on the grounds that a person had undue influence over the testator; that the testator lacked mental capacity ; or that the will was the product of fraud or forgery.
- Wrongdoing of the executor/administrator: The legal representative (executor/administrator) is accused of wrongdoing, which could include negligence, misconduct, failing to fulfill the duties, conflict of interest, or misappropriation of funds.
- The presence of creditors: All valid debts should be paid before the distribution of any estate assets. If they do not get paid, creditors may take legal action to seek payment of those debts In other cases, heirs or beneficiaries may take issue as to whether the debt is valid and, thus, whether the debt should be paid by the estate.
Without the emergence of complications, such as an heir contesting a will, or a legal representative who commits a wrongdoing, the likelihood of probate litigation is scant. But things could turn for the worse, so prepare yourself if such developments come to fruition.