5 Ways to Reduce the Risk of Probate Litigation

Probate is the process of validating the will of a deceased testator. Probate litigation occurs when a beneficiary files a lawsuit against an executor or administrator or when the owner of an estate does not have a will in place. The process is time-consuming, inefficient, expensive, and can take an emotional toll on the decedent’s family. Though unavoidable in some circumstances, probate litigation can be prevented in most cases.

Here are our top tips from Johnston & Associates, a Santa Rosa law firm, to reduce the risk of probate litigation.

Avoid Drafting Your Own Documents

Thinking of using resources from the internet to draft your estate-planning documents? Think again! The internet may provide incomplete or wrong information. Also, when drafting your documents, you may make costly mistakes that can expose you and your loved ones to financial risks. Instead of trying to take the DIY route, hire an attorney to draft your documents. Trust us when we say that hiring an attorney costs much less than probate litigation costs.

Do Not Involve the Intended Beneficiaries in the Planning Process

If you involve one or more beneficiaries in the estate planning process, a beneficiary who wasn’t involved in the process may feel left out and challenge your will and other estate planning documents in court, claiming that the beneficiaries who helped you develop your estate plan influenced your decisions. Not involving beneficiaries in the planning process will make it easier for your attorney to prove that your estate plan reflects your wishes.

Consult an Attorney Before Assuming Fiduciary Responsibilities

The law imposes certain legal duties on fiduciaries such as patient advocates, guardians, and trustees as they are entrusted with the responsibility of making important financial, legal, and medical decisions on the testator’s behalf. A layperson serving as a fiduciary can unknowingly violate their duties, leading to litigation. Therefore, you must consult an attorney to gain a deeper understanding of fiduciary roles and responsibilities before starting to serve as a fiduciary.

Consider a Medical Evaluation

A person can challenge a will in a court on the ground that the testator was experiencing a decline in their mental abilities when they were creating their estate plan. If you have reasons to believe that one or more of your loved ones may challenge your estate plan claiming that you lacked the mental capacity to create your will and other estate documents, consider having a physician evaluate your mental health. If your physician declares you mentally fit, it can be very difficult for a person to contest your will on the grounds of mental capacity.

Keep Your Estate Documents in a Safe Place

When a testator passes away and one or more estate documents cannot be located, probate litigation can arise. To prevent potential legal issues, keep your estate planning documents in your bank locker, safe, or any other safe place.

Johnston & Associates is a reputable probate litigation law firm in Santa Rosa. We use tried and tested ways to keep litigation out of court and help Sonoma County residents achieve peace of mind with their affairs. To learn more, call (707) 545-6542.