Some estates go through probate because an individual dies without a last will. The probate courts apply state law and ensure that their property goes to the right people, like their spouses and children.
Most people with estate plans aim to avoid probate as much as possible. Still, estates get dragged into probate by unhappy family members all the time. What are some of the most common reasons for people to initiate probate litigation during estate administration?
Frustration with or concerned about the executor
People aren’t always realistic when they pick someone to serve as executor. They could choose a sibling who is too old to manage the responsibilities or a child who lives out of state and has children who need daily care.
When an executor cannot or does not fulfill their obligations, family members may have to go to court and ask them to replace the executor. Families may also challenge someone who abuses their position as executor for personal gain or shows incompetence in the management of estate assets.
Suspicion of misconduct by other people
People other than the deceased could have an unfair impact on the estate plan. For example, a caregiver might exert undue influence and manipulate an older adult into changing their last will. A family member could forge false documents for personal benefit. When family members suspect some significant kind of misconduct, they can ask the courts to review the evidence.
Concern about mental decline
As people age, their mental acuity often declines as well. If family members have reason to think that an older adult who recently changed their estate plan lacked the testamentary capacity to do so, they could ask the courts to revert the plan to a previous version created before the testator’s decline began.
Understanding what leads to probate challenges can help you better plan your own estate and evaluate an estate for signs of serious issues.