Probate, even when it goes smoothly, can be a time-consuming hassle. If you are fortunate, a relatively low-maintenance estate may move through this process in about nine months. For more complex estates, probate may eat up 18 months or more.
Litigation can upend whatever hopes you had for a speedy resolution. The need for litigation usually arises when someone disputes an aspect of the estate. This can lead to a lengthy court battle as you work to move past the issue.
Common reasons for estate litigation
California law provides interested parties with many opportunities to challenge aspects of an estate. However, there are a few types of disputes that occur more frequently than others. This includes:
- An invalid will: When someone believes the decedent’s will is not valid. This could be due to questions about the person’s mental capacity, undue influence or signature validity, for example.
- A questionable trust: This might occur when an interested party has questions about the validity of a trust, similar to when a will is contested.
- Management of an estate or trust: An option if someone believes there are signs of mismanagement by an executor or trustee, or thinks the directives in an estate or trust cannot actually be fulfilled.
- Omitted spouse or children: If the decedent wed or had children after the execution of their testamentary instruments, and never updated said instructions to account for the new family makeup, an omitted spouse or child may be able to secure a share of the estate.
- Business partners: If a decedent owned or was closely involved in a business, their professional colleagues may be impacted by the probate process. If the estate lacks clear or consistent directions, shareholders or partners may believe they need to act.
There are many additional situations that might prompt litigation, but these represent some of the common scenarios.
Don’t let litigation drag on
If ignored or neglected, estate litigation can drag on and potentially result in some negative consequences. If you are involved in the administration of an estate or trust and are facing difficult legal questions, it’s important to get professional help.
Navigating this period of life may not be easy. With a robust legal response, you can get through it with a bit more ease.