Common Types of Disputes in a Washington DC Probate
When someone passes away and they have assets, the estate will typically go through a process known as probate. This is the legal process where the court will oversee the administration of the estate to validate beneficiaries and heirs, resolve debts, and pay taxes. Part of this process may also involve dealing with disputes. These disputes most commonly arise between family members who might challenge certain aspects of the will, or even claim the will is not valid.
These types of disputes can be rather contentious and need the expertise of a knowledgeable Washington DC probate attorney who can help. Here’s a look at some of the more common types of probate disputes that may arise.
Contesting a Will
It’s not uncommon for someone to create several versions of their will, especially if they have been married several times or had major life events. Disputes may arise between parties who claim a different version of the will is the active and valid one.
Executor Does Not Want the Position
When someone drafts a will, they usually name someone as the personal representative, or the executor. This person is the one who will be tasked with locating the decedent’s assets, notifying creditors, paying taxes, and distributing assets. Some people do not want to be the executor or are unable to perform the necessary duties.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty Allegations
Executors have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the decedent’s estate. There may be situations where beneficiaries feel like the executor is not honoring this duty or that there may be wrongdoing. In these cases, beneficiaries may apply to the court to have the executor removed. If the court removes the person, then the beneficiaries could file a breach of fiduciary duty claim.
There are Assets Located in More than One State
If the decedent owned assets in multiple states, the probate process may become more complex. Probate laws differ in each state, and they can end up with conflicting laws on how to handle assets. This is one of the scenarios where a Washington DC probate attorney can assist.
Multiple People Want the Same Assets
If someone dies without a will, which is known as dying intestate, or the will does not clearly define what should happen with certain assets, there could be a dispute if multiple people are making a claim. In these situations, a probate attorney would make an argument on behalf of their own client to persuade the judge to honor their client’s claim over any others.
Accusations of Undue Influence or Coercion
Another challenge to whether the will was valid or not may center around undue influence or coercion. Someone might make the argument that the decedent was coerced into changing their will. This can be avoided by ensuring any changes to a will are done with the assistance of a probate attorney.
Contact a Washington DC Probate Attorney
If you need assistance with your own estate planning documents, you have been named as an executor in someone’s will, or you need to contest a family member’s will, the team at Tobin, O’Connor & Ewing can help. Contact our office at 202-362-5900 to schedule an initial consultation.