Probate Litigation: What to Expect
There is no question probate litigation is very important. The rate of probate filings in Florida courts has continued to rise since 2009.
A probate is a court process overseeing the execution of a will. It also involves the resolution of estate issues. The benefits of probate include:
- Distributing the decedent’s assets among the intended beneficiaries
- Providing cost-effective and fast mechanisms for handling small estates
- Allowing the settling of debts, estate claims, and taxes
- Protecting heirs and beneficiaries from fraudulent estate executors
- Offering new sources of income to the beneficiaries
- Empowering a court to clear or confirm the will of the deceased
- Beneficiaries of the estate get a platform for airing any grievances.
Understanding the process is key to getting these benefits. Read on to get a rundown of what probate litigation entails.
Details of a Probate Litigation Process
Probate litigation can be emotionally tough on those involved. On one hand, it means you are mourning a loss. At the same time, you want an equitable resolution of the decedent’s estate.
The normal probate process starts after a probate court verifies the decedent’s will. A fiduciary then identifies and collects the deceased’s assets and liabilities. Afterward, the fiduciary settles all claims and executes the estate to the beneficiaries.
If there’s no will or testament, the court will appoint an administrator. This individual is going to fulfill the estate execution duties.
Litigation occurs if there is an issue with the will or with the distribution of assets. Problems arise due to sibling rivalry, remarrying, or having bad estate executors.
As such, you’ll need an experienced and detail-oriented attorney to handle any contentions. Here is a rundown of the litigation process:
The most common litigation involves contesting the will. A will gains legal effect only after validation by a probate court.
Will contests can come about due to errors or alterations in the document. There could be questions about the competence of the deceased when writing the will.
Moreover, there could be a suspicion of fraud. Or, someone may use undue influence over the deceased to profit from the will. Last, the will may fail to meet Florida’s statutory requirements.
Those affected by any of these issues can file their claims with the probate court.
Removal of Bad Fiduciary
For one reason or another, estate beneficiaries may feel the fiduciary is a poor choice for the role. As an example, this individual could be untrustworthy or negligent.
Another reason could be due to a breach of duty. This involves going against the wishes of the deceased. Thus, the beneficiaries’ probate attorney can file a case to remove the executor.
Spousal Elective Share Statutes
Florida law dictates the surviving spouse receive a share the elective estate. This provision takes into account the presence of prenuptial agreements.
If the decedent’s will does not address this issue, the surviving spouse can file a claim. This helps them get their share of the estate.
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As you can see, probate litigation plays a major role in ensuring the deceased’s wishes are met. Plus, potential beneficiaries have a mechanism for receiving a part of the estate.
If you want to contest an estate, file a claim as soon as possible. Probate cases have a statute of limitations. Choose an experienced lawyer to handle your case. They’ll guide you through the sometimes stressful and combative process.
Contact us to get your free consultation and learn more about estate planning.