People can oversimplify the concept of distributing assets after a person passes away. They might assume a spouse will get everything and expect the will to be clear. People can also put all their faith in an estate executor, assuming he or she will carry out the responsibilities of administering the estate properly.

In the best-case scenarios, this could very well be what happens. However, that is certainly not always the case. Some estates are more likely to go through legal contests during probate than others are, especially in cases involving the following four factors.

  1. Thorny family relationships – Estranged children, angry siblings, bitter ex-spouses and other messy familial connections can create complications during probate. There could be accusations of undue influence or people making surprising claims against the estate. Parties may challenge distribution based on little more than resentment or jealousy.
  2. Complicated property – Property including real estate, digital assets, investments and even debt can be exceedingly tricky to distribute. During probate, this can give rise to contests based on ownership, valuations and beneficiary designations. There can be issues transferring property and minimizing related expenses, which can create legal headaches for those involved.
  3. Problematic wills – If you have multiple versions of your will, an unsigned will, a will with confusing or illegal clauses, or you don’t have a will at all, the probate process can be problematic. Parties might petition the courts to set aside an improper will or argue over whether or not it reflects your true wishes.
  4. Legal complexities – There are many legal elements involved in creating an estate plan and navigating probate in California. Without careful consideration, they can present some obstacles during probate. Aspects like jurisdiction, testamentary capacity and administrative duties can come under fire and trigger disputes.

Perhaps the easiest way to minimize disputes based on these factors is to create a comprehensive estate plan. It should be valid and reflect an individual’s specific circumstances. If this does not happen, loved ones may want to consult an attorney to discuss their legal rights and options.