What Does a Probate Litigation Attorney Do?
Nobody wants to fight over a loved one’s estate after their death. But sometimes disagreements arise among heirs, beneficiaries, and other family members during the probate process. Probate litigation may be necessary to resolve the dispute and move forward.
The lawyers at Brown & Hobkirk, PLLC have been helping clients navigate the complexities of probate litigation for more than 20 years. Dealing with a dispute over your loved one’s estate can cause a great deal of anxiety and stress. That’s the last thing you need when you’re grieving. Let our experienced Arizona probate litigation attorneys work to defend your rights, interests, and the legacy that your loved one has left behind.
At our law firm, you’ll always deal directly with one of our seasoned probate litigation attorneys. Our lawyers take the time to build strong personal relationships with our clients to understand your needs and goals as we work together toward your preferred outcome. Call or contact us today for a free consultation.
What Is Probate Litigation?
Probate is the process of administering the estate of a deceased person, including identifying assets and property, paying creditors and taxes, and distributing assets to beneficiaries and heirs following the decedent’s will and state law.
Probate litigation may stem from a variety of legal challenges that arise during probate. These may include:
- Challenging the validity of a will or certain provisions in a will
- Contesting the appointment of a personal representative for the estate
- Seeking to have a representative removed from their position
- Alleging improprieties in the administration of an estate, such as a failure to adhere to the terms of the will.
Examples of specific types of probate litigation include:
Contesting a will
In a will contest, a party (usually a beneficiary under the will or a purported beneficiary or heir of the decedent) tries to challenge the validity of a will or specific provisions in a will. A party challenging a will may argue that a will was not validly executed by the decedent or does not conform to legal requirements under state law.
A will contest may try to determine which of several versions of the will represents the decedent’s true last will and testament. It could also arise in the course of probating a lost will. Alternatively, a party may contest-specific provisions of a will by arguing that those provisions came from an invalid amendment or that a provision violates the law or public policy. As a result, a will contest may result in an entire will or sections of a will being thrown out, or a different or earlier version of a will being accepted to probate.
In probate litigation, a party may raise a challenge to the probate process by alleging that the decedent had been subject to undue influence during their estate planning. Undue influence may include fraud, coercion, or the abuse of a position of trust with the decedent by a party that then benefits from the decedent’s estate planning, usually to the detriment of other beneficiaries and heirs.
Undue influence may be alleged to invalidate a will or to ensure that parties who may have engaged in undue influence with a decedent don’t obtain the spoils of their improper conduct.
A party may also contest the deceased’s estate plan by alleging that the decedent lacked “testamentary capacity” when they executed their estate planning documents. Testamentary capacity is usually defined as knowing and understanding the nature and extent of one’s property and how it is affected by an estate planning document.
A person may lack testamentary capacity due to physical or mental illness, such as dementia. If a court finds that a decedent lacked proper capacity when executing a will or other estate planning documents, the court may rule those documents invalid.
Breach of Fiduciary Responsibilities
A beneficiary or heir of an estate may allege that the estate’s personal representative has breached their fiduciary duties, including the duty to act in the best interest of the estate and fulfill the decedent’s wishes according to their will. Breaches of fiduciary responsibilities may include wasting estate assets (such as allowing a property to fall into disrepair), failing to distribute estate assets in accordance with the will, or engaging in self-dealing (including charging unreasonable administration fees to the estate).
A personal representative who breaches their fiduciary responsibilities may be removed from their position, ordered to undertake certain actions, or required to compensate the estate or beneficiaries for losses the estate may have suffered.
Do I Need a Probate Litigation Attorney?
You may need to speak to a probate litigation attorney if you are facing issues during the probate process, such as:
- Disputes over the inheritance of specific assets or property
- Disputes over the interpretation of will provisions
- Allegations of fraud, coercion, or undue influence in the making of a will
- Challenges to status as an heir or beneficiary
- Challenges to the appointment of personal representatives or the removal of personal representatives for alleged improper behavior
- Assertions of spousal rights
- Estate and inheritance tax disputes
A probate litigation attorney from Brown & Hobkirk, PLLC will provide effective advice in pursuit of results that are fair and meet with the wishes of your departed loved one.
How Can a Probate Litigation Lawyer Help Me?
Hiring a lawyer can provide certain benefits when you are facing probate litigation, such as:
- Making the process more efficient: Trying to resolve a probate dispute on your own can prove incredibly complex and time-consuming. An experienced probate litigation attorney can help shepherd you through the process, ensuring that you know what to expect at each stage.
- Helping you mediate disputes with family members and other loved ones: Probate litigation often involves significant conflict among family members, who may feel that they got an unfair share of a loved one’s estate, that others manipulated a decedent, or that family members are improperly administering the estate. A probate litigation lawyer will have experience navigating family disputes with the compassion and tact necessary to help their clients resolve the conflicts as smoothly as possible.
- Advising you on the technical issues of Arizona probate law: Heirs, beneficiaries, and personal representatives often have little or no experience with Arizona probate laws. Having a knowledgeable attorney on your side can prove critical to knowing your legal rights and what to do when issues arise during the probate process.
- Filing or defending you in probate litigation claims: Probate litigation, like any other type of civil claim, requires following numerous technical court rules and procedures. Non-compliance with court rules can result in claims or defenses being tossed out. A probate litigation attorney will work to ensure that your claims or defenses are properly presented in court so that you receive your fair day in court.
When you choose Brown & Hobkirk, PLLC to help you with your probate litigation matter, our lawyers will:
- Offer you the individualized attention you deserve and develop a tailored legal strategy aimed at achieving your specific needs and goals
- Provide prompt and responsive communication, including giving you the ability to speak directly to the lawyer handling your case
- Leverage our law firm’s 20+ years of experience handling complex Arizona probate litigation matters to identify innovative solutions to your probate litigation matters
Contact Our Trusted Probate Litigation Lawyers
Don’t wait another day to learn more about what an Arizona probate litigation lawyer from Brown & Hobkirk, PLLC can do for you. Our compassionate, dedicated legal team can review the details of your dispute and work toward a resolution that brings you peace of mind during such a difficult time.