It's Not Always a Big Deal if Your Estate Goes Through the Probate Court

Posted on: 11 November 2020

Probate courts must review all estates, but that doesn't mean it has to be a painful process. There are certainly times where you may have to lawyer up and fight over an estate, but the process is more often a formality. Take a look at why it's a normal process and when you might need to hire a probate attorney for a legal battle.

Dealing with the Basics

When someone dies, they may leave behind an estate. Their assets will be transferred to someone, preferably beneficiaries of their choosing. When this process occurs, a county-level probate court will guide it. Notably, most of the work of the probate courts is fairly mundane. The court will confirm that the estate's grantor is legally dead, who their heirs are, and whether they had a will. Presuming they had a will, the appointed executor will put its words into effect and send a report to the court to outline what was transferred.

Filling Gaps

Sometimes a will has gaps. Probate attorneys understand that it's difficult to anticipate various issues. For example, a named executor might die or be unavailable. When there's no one to serve as an estate's executor, the court will schedule a probate hearing. Nothing special has to come of the hearing, but the court will likely appoint an administrator. This is a person who takes on the role the executor would have served.

Similar problems can occur with ambiguous or incomplete language. A grantor may have written a will before they came into some money, for example. If the disposition of the new wealth isn't covered by the will, the court will likely intervene to see that the deceased's will is implemented as well as possible.

Legal Battles

Probate issues can get contentious. If you can imagine any sort of probate dispute, you're likely imagining a scenario where beneficiaries are fighting over an estate. Someone might insist, for example, that their beloved father modified an estate due to undue influence by a new wife. The court would then study the will and any prior documents to determine if someone unduly influenced the changes.

Similarly, the probate court protects beneficiaries from possible fraud. For example, an executor has a duty to take care of all of the properties listed in the will. If you inherited an estate, the executor must try to keep it from going far down in value. However, you can sue in probate court to recover the difference.

For more information or assistance, contact a local probate attorney.