When it comes to estate administration, the last thing you want to manage is litigation. It is sometimes necessary, however. Disputes over wills and estate plans are common, and there may be many reasons why a dispute arises.
Here are five examples of estate planning issues that could lead to estate litigation.
1. The will is not current
When unexpected events occur after the will is written and it is not updated, disputes may arise. For example, the estate plan divided things equally between the three children when it was written. Since then, a new child was born. Will that new child be disinherited?
2. The will is not detailed enough
Sometimes, people writing wills focus only on high-dollar assets like the home, the vacation property, and grandma’s fine jewelry. However, disputes are common over less valuable items, such as those with great sentimental value. Ideally, a will or estate plan would cover who is to receive these items.
3. The will is not valid
A major source of probate litigation involves the question of whether a particular will is legally valid. For example, California requires two witnesses to sign the will, but other states may not. If the will does not have the signatures of two people, it may be rejected by the probate court.
4. Your financial affairs are not detailed
Part of the job of probate is to continue paying bills, as necessary, as services are continued or cut off. To do this, the estate administrator needs to know about recurring bills, automatic deductions, subscriptions, club memberships and automatic payments. Ideally, the estate plan would include a list of all typical monthly bills, account numbers and online passwords, along with information about how many are automatically paid.
5. The estate plan does not designate care for survivors
If the decedent was the caregiver for an elderly parent, a child with a disabling condition or another loved one, the care of that person needs to be considered as part of the estate plan. Likewise, disputes can easily arise if you don’t spell out who will be caring for your pets.
There are many reasons why a will or an estate plan will be challenged in court, and this is not an exhaustive list. If your loved one’s will or estate plan is defective, invalid, or needs to be challenged, contact an attorney who handles probate litigation.