The passing of a loved one can be extremely distressing for family members and loved ones. However, probate (the legal process where assets are allocated to beneficiaries, debtors and heirs) can occasionally result in further tensions.
Thus, identifying some of the common sources of conflict may be extremely helpful in preventing disagreements because it gives you a chance to plan ahead and avoid them. Outlined below are three common reasons for probate disputes.
Where a fiduciary has breached their duty
Typically, fiduciaries will have been entrusted with the task of making sure that the decedent’s final wishes are carried out. This means that they have a legal duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries at all times. Occasionally, fiduciaries may fall short in their obligations and family members could pick up on this. This can often lead to legal actions for breach of their fiduciary duty. Choosing someone you trust for your powers of attorney and as your executor is essential to good estate planning.
When the descendent has assets in other states
Probate laws may vary from state to state. As a result, when a descendent has property in other parts of the country, the probate process can become more problematic. In those situations, ancillary probate cases have to be opened in each additional state, and that’s time-consuming (and costly). It may be better to divest yourself of unused assets in another state — or you might consider putting them into a trust to avoid probate issues.
Where creditors are making claims
Often, creditors can make a claim to parts of the estate in order to settle outstanding debts. However, this is not necessarily an automatic right. Beneficiaries and heirs generally have a right to query the claim in order to show that it is legitimate. Disputes over outstanding debts may result in extended probate disputes. Keeping clear records of your debts (and assets) can make the entire process easier.
Estate planning can be complicated, but the more you know about how probate works, the easier the process can become.