What is a Probate Litigation Attorney and Why Would You Need One?

Probate is a process overseen by a court to confirm the legitimacy of a will. Probate litigation can occur if the will is challenged, or beneficiaries believe the executor isn’t meeting their obligations. Other common causes of probate litigation include disagreements over executor fees and guardianship disputes and elective share disputes. Probate litigation attorneys help executors and beneficiaries handle probate disputes.

When to Hire a Probate Litigation Lawyer?

An experienced probate litigation attorney has an in-depth understanding of probate laws. They have amassed a wealth of knowledge, which allows them to develop customized legal strategies for their clients.

Here are some situations in which you will want to hire a probate litigation lawyer.

You Want to Identify Problems With a Will or Probate Case

The average person may find it challenging to understand and comprehend probate and estate planning laws. They lack a thorough knowledge of these laws and can overlook important details when reviewing a will. Individuals with limited or zero knowledge of probate laws are highly likely to misinterpret will language and may also fail to understand the consequences of any actions taken during a probate case. Without the right knowledge, they can arrive at wrong conclusions and unknowingly take steps that may weaken their case.

A probate litigation lawyer has a comprehensive understanding of probate laws and can assist you in comprehending the specifics of your probate matter. They can pinpoint issues that might affect your chances of obtaining a positive result and tackle them accordingly.

You Need Help Navigating the Court System

Executors and administrators must submit a petition to initiate the probate of a will and then comply with estate administration guidelines and judicial directives. They may have to meet judges and other court officials and complete formalities, which can be overwhelming.

The situation becomes even more stressful when conflicts arise leading to a probate lawsuit. Many people haven’t been to court, except for jury duty. They do not know how the legal and court system work and may find it challenging to file a lawsuit or defend against one.

Whether you are contesting a will or have filed an appeal in a court to have the executor of a will to which you are a beneficiary removed, you will need to interact with court clerks, judges, and other court officials. An experienced probate litigation lawyer in Sonoma County can help you navigate the court system. They can also assist you in completing paperwork and filing them correctly.

You Want to Contest a Will

Sometimes will-related disputes can arise after the testator passes away. It’s not uncommon for disagreements to emerge over bequests or claims that the will isn’t valid as the testator – the individual who created the will – was being pressured into including terms and conditions benefiting certain beneficiaries. Regardless of the reason for the disagreement, a party can file a lawsuit.

Probate litigation can be expensive and time consuming. Probate cases can drag on for years. An experienced probate litigation lawyer knows this and will do their level best to keep disputes out of court. If you’re a beneficiary of a will and find yourself locked in conflict with other beneficiaries, your probate litigation attorney will try to negotiate a settlement. If a consensus isn’t reached, your attorney can challenge the will in court. If you want to contest a will, your lawyer can analyze your viewpoint and review details of your case to determine whether you should move forward.

You are Trying to Defend a Contested Will

After a testator passes away, a loved one who was left out of their will may contest it claiming that the testator lacked the mental capacity to write a will or the person did not properly understand and approve the contents of the will. Another common ground for contesting a will is undue influence. If you are an executor of a will and a party decides to contest it, your probate litigation lawyer in Sonoma County will analyze the facts of the case and develop a solid defense strategy against the litigant’s claim.

You Want to Address Executor Misconduct

Individuals who draft and authorize wills typically designate an executor. Often, the executor is a close friend or a relative of the testator. The underlying expectation is that the executor will manage the estate properly.

Unfortunately, in some cases executors misuse estate resources or make choices driven by their own personal gains. When an executor acts dishonestly, the estate can incur losses, which can reduce the value of the inheritance. If you are a beneficiary of a will and have reasons to believe that the executor has failed to act in your interest, your lawyer can collect evidence of executor misconduct and then file a lawsuit.

You Want to Remove an Executor

If a beneficiary of a will suspects that the executor is using estate assets for personal gains, has transferred estate assets in their name or is stealing from the estate, they can instruct their lawyer to write a letter to the executor, asking them to provide a copy of the estate accounts.

If the beneficiary isn’t satisfied by the executor’s response, their lawyer can move to the court seeking the executor’s removal. A judge will only consider removing an executor if the individual requesting the removal presents irrefutable evidence of the executor’s misconduct. If you’re a beneficiary of a will and suspect the executor of wrongdoing, a probate litigation attorney can help you collect evidence and devise a strategy to prove the person’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Additionally, if you are a beneficiary of a will and the testator’s children from a previous marriage file a lawsuit claiming that injustice was meted out to them, your attorney can help you explore your legal options.

Johnston & Associates is a trusted probate law firm serving Sonoma County. Our attorneys have years of experience negotiating settlements on clients’ behalf and successfully representing them. To learn more, call us at 707-545-6542.