No one ever wants to need a probate litigation lawyer, but sometimes things don’t go as planned. When it comes to probate, the reasons things don’t go as planned are fairly predictable. Indeed, there are 5 top reasons for probate litigation.
Use of a “Non-Standard” Estate Plan
It’s not wrong to use a non-standard estate plan. It’s just, well, non-standard. So the usual processes and understood way of handling your estate is not going to work, and your estate executor and the courts have to work harder to understand your meaning. You can avoid this by having an experienced estate lawyer create a plan that expresses your desires in the standard format, using standard estate planning language. So that the people who need to relate to and understand the plan are best equipped to do so.
It’s not so much the multiple marriages that are the problem, but the lack of clarity about how to handle that. Clear prenuptials and postnuptial agreements as well as specific wording around spouses and children is helpful, although some family members can still contest an estate plan that was clear and specific if they don’t feel that it was reasonable. Life insurance policies can also get confusing when there are multiple marriages and beneficiaries.
Your estate executor must be organized, be a clear communicator, and be able to resolve conflicts. If they happen to be disorganized, an unclear or confusing communicator, or have poor conflict resolution skills, they can create misunderstandings. They may even mismanage the process, resulting in probate litigation by frustrated, confused beneficiaries. The best way to avoid this is to make sure fiduciary duties go to someone who is up to the task.
Appeal Based on Interpretation of Trust Terms
Despite all efforts to be clear, beneficiaries may not all agree on what some terms mean. There can be confusion over “homes”, “property”, “art collection” or other terms in an estate plan. This is a conflict that you can avoid only by using great specificity, and forgoing the use of general terms. Unfortunately, making a list of everything in an estate is unwieldy, burdensome, and clumsy. The best way to reduce this risk is through careful wording. Use itemizing when items have great value and it seems necessary.
Poor planning seems broad, but it can be surprising how many forms “poor planning “ can take. This can be forgetting to address a vacation property, not updating to include marriages and births in the family, having willed more assets than exist at the time of death, and more. The best way to avoid these things is to work with a professional. Update your estate plans whenever large changes happen, or on a schedule, with an estate lawyer.