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Probate Litigation | What You Need to Know

Probate Litigation What You Need to Know.jpgThe death of a friend or family member is never easy. In addition to dealing with your loss, the funeral, and all of the emotions, there are a number of matters that need to be handled after their passing. Even if they have their affairs in order, an up-to-date will does not guarantee that administering the deceased's estate will be simple. Most estates are administered without issue, but the execution of the will could bring long-simmering family disputes to the surface and eventually spill over into an acrimonious legal battle. Before that happens to you, it's important for you to understand the basics of probate litigation.

If you have questions about your specific case or would like more information, call Hackard Law today to schedule a free case evaluation with a Santa Clara probate litigation attorney.

What Is Probate Litigation?

When someone dies with a will, the decedent's estate is then brought to probate court. This involves filing the will and other documents, and then the court oversees the distribution of the estate. Sometimes, disputes arise during this process, resulting in probate litigation.

There are many different kinds of probate disputes that can arise. Some common issues that often result in estate litigation include the following:

· Ambiguous terms in a will or a trust document

· Breaches of fiduciary duty

· Claims of undue influence

· Challenges to the validity of a will on procedural grounds

· Claims that the person who created a will or trust lacked the capacity to do so

If there are unresolved disputes among the beneficiaries that are becoming increasingly contentious, you may be headed for estate litigation.

Risk Factors

When it comes to probate litigation, almost anything can spark dispute or argument. That said, there are a number of common traits that tend to precipitate probate disputes.

Multiple marriages. As you might imagine, multiple marriages can complicate the decedent's wishes with respect to the distribution of his estate. There may be multiple revisions to the will, leading to confusion as to which is the most current version of the will. In addition, the decedent's children may resent the stepmother or a stepbrother inheriting money or property from the estate.

Family dysfunction. This can include sibling rivalries or estranged family members. Probating the estate has a tendency to reignite old resentments and awaken disputes that have been dormant for years.

Excluded family members. Whenever a decedent "cut" someone out of her will, it almost always leads to very hard feelings and often results in litigation. The excluded family member will often argue that he or she was excluded as a result of the influence of some other beneficiary who benefited as a result of his exclusion.

Treating children differently. For example, giving your eldest daughter a larger share than your son is likely to result in a dispute. Preferential treatment of step- and half-siblings over natural children can be especially acrimonious.

Overly complicated estate plans. The more complicated the estate plan is, the more likely there is to be confusion, differing interpretations, and unhappy beneficiaries.

From an estate planning perspective, most attorneys will recommend that you avoid these risk factors when drafting your estate documents. Unfortunately, this advice doesn't help you if the estate documents have already been drafted and you're already knee-deep in disputes over the will. If you're in this situation, you need an experienced Santa Clara probate litigation lawyer on your side to ensure that your case is resolved as favorably as possible.

How Long Will It Take?

Unfortunately, this is a difficult question to answer. Some cases may get resolved in a number of months, while others could potentially drag on for years. The court may be slow in hearing disputes or issuing decisions. Sometimes, one dispute leads to other disputes, which brings in other parties and creates additional delays. A skilled estate attorney can make sure the case keeps moving forward and help quickly resolve the matter, which reduces the amount of time and money you have to spend on getting a result.

How Much Will Legal Representation Cost?

This is another question that is difficult to answer. Every case is different. The legal fees for estate litigation are typically billed on an hourly basis, and it may be difficult to estimate how much time and how much work will be required to resolve the dispute. Complicated cases may involve multiple claims and competing disputes from a number of parties. In short, litigation can be expensive and is not a decision that you should make without experienced legal advice.

In addition to the financial aspects, you should also keep in mind that litigation can be very time-consuming and emotionally draining. On top of that, you need to recognize that estate litigation can result in lasting damage to family relationships. Fortunately, the representation of an experienced lawyer can make the process go as smoothly as possible and may even be able to minimize the damage to your relationships, as you will not have to personally communicate with family members regarding the dispute.

If you're involved in an estate dispute, we recommend that you talk to a lawyer who offers initial consultations for free. As part of the consultation, an experienced lawyer should be able to provide an estimate of what he or she thinks it will cost to handle your case versus what you may receive if you prevail.

Hackard Law-Experienced Santa Clara Probate Litigation Lawyers

The attorneys at Hackard Law specialize in estate litigation. We help families get through this difficult time, get the estate resolved, and move on with their lives. We'll meet with you and, together, we'll work out the following:

● Identify all potential claims you may have and assess their strengths and weaknesses

● Identify and prioritize your objectives

● Develop a litigation strategy and potential timeline

● Create a litigation budget and discuss the potential outcomes and financial implications

We serve clients throughout California, so if you have questions about your estate case and can't find answers, we're here to help. Contact us today via email or call (916) 313-3030 from Santa Clara or (213) 357-5200 from Los Angeles to schedule your free consultati 

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