When a loved one passes away, the process begins for distributing their assets and paying any remaining balances in terms of debts and taxes. Wills and probate are often a complicated task that is done to ensure that the deceased’s Last Will and Testament is upheld in an ethical and accurate manner. If a family member dies, their will is brought into the probate process to ensure it’s both legally valid and enforceable. Despite the best intentions, inheritances can become the source for a variety of issues within a family, ranging from challenges of the will’s validity to unhappy beneficiaries vying for a larger portion of the deceased’s assets. This scenario is not enjoyable, but it is one that happens on a regular basis.
Legal action can commence to modify the will in a court of law. JDKatz is here for comprehensive support in probate litigation in Bethesda and beyond. Our estate lawyers in Maryland have a long history of striving to provide the best legal services in the business, utilizing our team of estate planning attorneys and Of Counsel experts to create a personalized plan for your legal proceedings. Today, we’ll take a closer look into what probate litigation is, in addition to the value that our estate law experts provide when representing our clients. When done, be sure to contact us today to see what your options are.
Starting in Probate Courts
When a loved one passes away, their will helps to dictate what happens to their assets. Probate courts are available to process this task, working to identify what assets are owned, how to pay remaining bills and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets amongst appointed heirs. An executor will be tasked with the process of properly taking care of all of the deceased’s assets. Typically, this probate process is done according to the court’s decisions and are uncontested. When an issue arises, however, legal action may be brought forward to make amendments to the processing of a deceased individual’s estate.
Examples of Probate Litigation
These legal proceedings are often started based on a common core of reasons. When probate litigation is done to fight the dividing of assets, it is often done to challenge:
- Will validity. Often known as a Will Challenge, individuals can challenge the entire validity of the will. This must be done on a founded legal basis, including fraud, forgery, undue influence, or any coercion present during the making of the will. Another process we’ve seen is the challenging of a will due to the finding of a more recently executed will. If it is found within the Statute of Limitations, this new will can be adopted as the legitimate document.
- Will construction. In some cases, the will may not be complete enough. This occurs when individuals fail to properly write their will in accordance with Maryland law. Probate litigation can be useful in amending the will, making changes, and completing the document.
- Spousal elective share. Spouses who were not included in the will in Maryland have the option to seek their rightful share under common law. In our state, this spouse can elect to take one-third of their deceased spouse’s estate if there are children involved. Spouses without children may be able to take half of the estate.
- Guardian disputes. While not technically included in probate litigation, the same court will hear guardianship issues, where guardians are needed to care for the estate and the individual if the person is unable to care for themselves.
- Fiduciary issues. Fiduciaries are appointed to handle different responsibilities as laid out in the will. These individuals are trusted with properly executing the will with the knowledge that they are working for the best interest of the party they are serving. If this person fails to execute their tasks properly, actions can be taken to remove that person and even seek out losses caused by their wrongdoing.
Properly executing a person’s Last Will and Testament can be a stressful and confusing endeavor. In many cases, improper documentation or unbalanced distributions of the assets can create the need for probate litigation. Next time, we’ll continue on this topic by highlighting different risk factors that often accompany or necessitate legal proceedings on a deceased family member’s behalf. In any case, it can prove entirely beneficial to speak to a team of trusted estate planning attorneys. Our estate lawyers in Maryland have the experience and expertise needed to guide you through this process, from living trusts and comprehensive estate planning to litigation services and more. If you need assistance in this field, be sure to contact JDKatz for assistance today.