When your loved one has passed, the last thing you want to deal with are issues with their Last Will and Testament. That’s why knowing the ins-and-outs of probate litigation can go a long way to ease your stress.
There are a lot of legalities when it comes to someone passing. You’ll need to work out how many different certificates of death you need. The hospital needs to be paid. You’ll also need to work out how to divide the estate. This last stress can easily make or break a family if not handled well.
When your loved one dies, you don’t want to have to worry about all these details on top of how you’re already feeling.
That’s why probate lawyers are so important. So before you throw up your hands and walk away, check out our guide to probate litigation.
What is Probate Litigation?
Probate litigation is the process of dealing with the Last Will and Testament of the deceased. Whether you’re administering the estate, challenging a provision of the will, settling estate disputes, or challenging the entire contents of the last will, a probate lawyer can help you.
When Should You Get a Probate Lawyer?
There are special circumstances when you should hire a probate lawyer, and we’ll talk about those later. Another thing to consider when going through probate litigation is how much time you have.
Because there are time limits for challenging a will, hiring a probate lawyer quickly is very important.
In the state of Florida, you have three months to challenge the will if you’re notified about it. If you’re not notified, but the will is still processing in court, then you have until the entire probate litigation process is complete.
What Kind of Objections Can I Have to a Last Will and Testament?
Just because Great Aunt Callie-Sue didn’t give you the china set you wanted doesn’t mean you should go to court. There are a few conditions that you have to meet before a probate lawyer will consider taking your case.
You Think You Should Have Been a Beneficiary
If Uncle Joe mysteriously wrote you out of his will, you should consider getting involved in the probate litigation process.
Someone is Unexpectedly Named a Beneficiary
You know all those stories about a mysterious deceased relative or neighbor willing you his millions of dollars? Chances are you’d have to spend some of that money fighting in probate court.
Common examples of this are distant relatives, mistresses or lovers, or neighbors and estranged friends.
Questions about the Rights of Adoptees, Step-Children, and Who Cared for The Deceased in their Last Days
Today’s family cultures can involve lots of tricky legal potholes. Children are adopted by the family. Family members divorce and re-marry with more children. There can also be issues if the deceased connected to someone who took care of them in their last days.
For example, your Grandpa Riley might have decided to give $10,000 from his estate to pay for his nurses’ college fund at the last second. These are the instances when probate litigation can get messy.
Questions about the Will Itself
Other examples of important issues include
- Lack of mental capacity of the person who prepared the will
- Undue influence and duress (no writing wills at gunpoint, for example)
- Improper signing of the will
- Intentional interference by an outside party
What a Probate Lawyer Can Do for You
The first thing a probate lawyer can do is help you file the deceased’s Last Will and Testament. They know exactly what you need and what paperwork needs to be filed so that this process is as quick and painless as possible.
Once the process starts, then you’ll need the lawyer’s help to administer the estate. You’ll want to consult your probate lawyer, as well as an accountant, to make sure everything goes smoothly.
If there are any problems at all, your probate lawyer can help you and your family settle the disputes.
What Should I Look for in a Probate Lawyer?
While considering whether to hire a probate lawyer, you should ask yourself a few questions.
- Is this case purely about administering the estate?
- Or will there be a conflict that needs a qualified and specialized attorney?
- Are there any special needs to consider, like a second language?
- Is the lawyer certified in multiple states?
- How much do they charge?
- Do they bill by the hour, or is there a flat fee?
Lastly, a great probate lawyer should be very detail oriented and experienced. He or she should also be a good communicator so that you can stay updated on the process.
Before Going Forward with Probate Litigation
Before you meet with your probate lawyer, here is some information you should have ready to go.
- What is being probated? Is it a will, a trust, etc?
- Are you contesting the will? Is anyone else going to contest it?
- What is your role in the matter? Are you one of the beneficiaries, or are you related to one? Are you contesting it, or are you just trying to file it?
- What services are you wanting from your probate lawyer?
Remember that your lawyer is bound by law to keep the details of your case confidential. You should tell them everything that you think might be important to the case.
Is Probate Litigation for You?
Remember that probate lawyers are here to make this difficult time as easy as possible for you and your family. Probation cases can take a while, but the right lawyer will work hard so that everyone can walk away satisfied.