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What should you do if there is a dispute over an estate?

Probate is a fairly straightforward process of settling an estate. It involves authenticating a decedent's will, appointing an executor, identifying creditors, determining date-of-death values, paying debts and taxes, locating assets and distributing assets. Within each of these steps does lie the possibility of litigation; however, especially if someone contests the will or other aspects of the estate.

What are some common causes of probate litigation?

The causes vary. Some of the common issues that come up in court include:

  • Disputes about beneficiaries or who should receive assets
  • Disputes about the validity of a will
  • Disputes about the person who was appointed to administer the estate

When any of these disputes take place, the court may have to stop the distribution of property or take other steps to secure the estate until the dispute is resolved. This delays the release of assets to beneficiaries, which can be frustrating for those involved in the dispute.

What should you do if someone in your family is contesting a will?

If it's a sibling or relative, it should be fairly easy to sit them down and talk through the issue. There may be a way to come to an agreement about the will outside court. For example, if your sister was cut out of the will for no apparent reason, you and your other siblings might agree to share a portion of what you were given so that she doesn't contest the will and drag out the probate process. Of course, every situation is different, so you may wish to consult with your attorney first.

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