What is Probate Litigation?

What is Probate LitigationProbate courts handle different types of legal issues.

Most people will see a probate court after a loved one has died, since the probate court must determine that someone has died and whether to admit their will into probate.

The vast majority of probate cases are not contested, but some will be.

Types of Probate Disputes

Probate litigation can take many forms, such as:

Probate courts also hear guardianship proceedings, where someone can seek a guardianship because a person can no longer make decisions for themselves because of incapacity.

Will Contests

Of these probates disputes, perhaps the most challenging are will contests where someone questions the validity of the will. For example, a disappointed heir might bring a will contest for the following reasons:

In these disputes, a probate judge will receive testimony and evidence, which will depend on the nature of the dispute. This type of probate litigation is challenging because the testator is no longer alive and therefore cannot be examined by the court. Instead, each side will present evidence on its behalf, which can take the form of witness testimony and medical records.

If a judge finds the will invalid, then he or she might:

Litigants who want to challenge a will should consider each probable outcome and understand how their rights will be affected. For example, someone who receives a small legacy under the will might receive nothing if a prior will is admitted into probate. In this situation, contesting a will might not be in your best interests.

Will Contest Warning Signs

Any estate planning attorney must analyze a client’s personal situation to identify whether a will contest is in the future. Although every situation is different, there are some classic warning signs:

If any of these situations apply, then estate planning attorneys must exercise special care when drafting wills and other estate plan documents. When estate planning lawyers make errors, then probate litigation can gain traction and a judge will need to decide these issues.

Fiduciary Mistakes

Executors and trustees owe beneficiaries certain duties. Some duties include:

If a fiduciary fails at one of these duties, and if a beneficiary has been harmed, then a lawsuit might be appropriate. Injured beneficiaries can sue to have the fiduciary removed and to receive financial compensation to make up for their losses.

Of course, some challenges to fiduciaries lack merit. Although a fiduciary must treat beneficiaries fairly, they do not have to treat them equally if the will or trust states that they will receive different gifts. Sometimes, disgruntled beneficiaries challenge a fiduciary simply because they cannot succeed at challenging the will or trust.

Hiring the Right Probate Litigation Attorney

Not all lawyers have the necessary experience to prosecute or defend clients in probate litigation. Some handle only a small number of probate cases a year, most of which are not contested. However, contested litigation requires a lawyer with deep experience in the following:

At Lindquist Wood Edwards LLP, our Dallas probate litigation lawyers know litigation. We have handled all kinds of litigation disputes, including contested probate matters, and are happy to answer any question you have. To help you better understand what we offer, we can schedule a consultation where you can describe a dispute and ask any questions you want.

Speak with a Dallas Probate Litigation Lawyer

If you are involved in a probate dispute, you deserve experienced legal counsel who will protect your rights. Depending on the dispute, this might include challenging a will, defending a will, suing a fiduciary, or defending yourself from a lawsuit. Whatever situation you find yourself in, the Dallas probate litigation lawyers at Lindquist Wood Edwards LLP can help. To schedule your consultation, please contact us at 214-760-6893.