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Back to the Basics – Understanding Contested Estates

Probate and Contested Estates

When an individual dies, their transfer of property through the legal system is known as probate. During this process, the court determines the validity of a legally formed will or a how property will be distributed if it has not been designated to be inherited by another named party. When an estate enters probate, all of the debts and taxes owed by the deceased on the property are paid, any remaining income, dividends, stocks or investments are sold and the property is distributed or transferred out to the heirs of the deceased. While the deceased individual can leave property or assets to any party they wish, there are certain situations that call into question the validity of the transfer. If one of these suspicious situations arises, a party may raise a contested issue with the distribution.

Examples of Contested Estate Issues

In the event that one interested party feels that they are not receiving what they were promised or entitled to, they can file a contested issue. A contested estate issue commonly arise in situation such as second marriages when the surviving spouse is left to inherit the estate while other loved ones do not receive inheritance, if certain family members were not included in the will or were given a greater share, or when one party claims entitlement to more funds due to caregiving for the deceased at the end of their life. Many interested parties feel that they have had something taken away that they were entitled to because they were not aware of changes in the estate plan or were not part of the estate plan.

To Bring A Contested Estate Challenge…

In order to bring a successful contested estate challenge, the individual bringing the claim must prove that the will or trust was made as the result of undue influence by another party, that the deceased individual who drafted the will was not mentally competent, according to legal standards, at the time of drafting, and that the drafting of the new document was made under fraudulent circumstances.

Probate, like many other court processes, can take several months from start to finish. Generally, the probate process takes around 8 to 9 months, but can stretched out much longer if a will is contested and there are multiple parties needed to agree with a resolution. Thus, when considering contesting an estate, there are many factors to weigh in determining its worth.

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