When someone plans their estate, they probably hope to keep their assets out of probate court. However, there may be situations in which you as a beneficiary need to involve the probate courts to uphold the wishes of a deceased individual.
Estate administration is, unfortunately, a prime opportunity for some people to engage in fraud or misconduct. There are numerous scenarios in which you may need to initiate probate litigation because of estate issues.
When you suspect undue influence or fraud
Older adults often make a point of telling their loved ones about their legacy and estate plans. If your loved one died and their last wishes seem to contradict what they always told you, you may suspect something is wrong.
In some cases, a caregiver may have used their position to push a testator to change their beneficiary designations. Other times, someone might have drafted fraudulent documents or tricked your loved one into signing something without knowing what it was. If you believe that the estate planning documents don’t reflect your loved one’s intentions, you may want to contest the last will.
When the executor acts in their own best interests
The person handling the estate has a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries. They need to follow state law and the instructions provided by the testator. It is their responsibility to manage the assets in the estate and handle all of the responsibilities left behind by the testator.
Executors might steal assets from the estate or hire their own business to provide services for the estate, potentially reducing what the beneficiaries receive. If an executor tries to use their position to enrich themselves, you may need to challenge them or their actions.
When the executor does not take action or demonstrates incompetence
Sometimes, the issue with an estate is not that the executor wants to profit off of it but rather that they have not fulfilled their responsibilities at all.
Executors who failed to file documents with the probate courts, change the names on accounts, or secure assets may put the inheritance of beneficiaries at risk. The same is true of an executor who mismanages property or fails to understand the responsibilities to the estate and its beneficiaries. People may sometimes need to challenge the person managing the estate because they haven’t failed to take the right steps.
Understanding when you might need to initiate probate litigation can help you protect your inheritance.