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3 common reasons people initiate a probate lawsuit

On Behalf of | Feb 24, 2023 | Probate & Estate Administration

Most probate hearings simply function as part of the technical process of estate administration. The courts review paperwork and sign off on important transactions to help ensure compliance both with state law and the wishes of deceased individuals.

Sometimes, though, probate court hearings occur because someone has filed a lawsuit or otherwise made a contentious claim related to probate and/or the estate administration process. Disputes can arise for a variety of different reasons. Challenges related to the contents of someone’s estate plan or will contests are among the most common forms of probate litigation that occur. Individuals who are related to someone who has died may claim in probate court that there is something wrong with their testamentary documents. These are just some of the reasons why people initiate probate litigation.

1. They suspect undue influence

Sometimes, family members or professional caregivers will abuse a position of authority for personal gain. They may abuse, coerce or manipulate an older adult into making adjustments to their estate plan for personal benefit.

Especially when there are drastic last-minute changes that primarily benefit a caregiver, families may want to challenge an updated estate plan by raising claims of undue influence.

2. They have concerns about fraud

There are numerous forms of fraud that could lead to inappropriate probate outcomes. For example, someone might alter estate planning documents or replace one page in the document with a fraudulent page of their own creation.

There could also be situations in which someone tricks another party into changing their estate plan in a way they would not have otherwise. Questions about the legitimacy of estate planning documents or the possibility of manipulation of the testator might lead to a will contest.

3. They have questions about someone’s capacity

To create a valid and enforceable will, the testator needs to be an adult and needs to be of sound mind. Those under the influence of drugs or alcohol, struggling with certain mental health disorders or experiencing cognitive decline due to age may no longer have the ability to create legally-binding estate planning documents.

When someone is concerned that estate-related documents are inaccurate or invalid, they may feel compelled to challenge the documents in probate court to uphold what they believe to be is the intended legacy of the testator. Understanding common reasons for probate litigation can help those with questions about a complicated estate situation make more informed decisions about the circumstances they’re facing.


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