When an individual passes away, their estate is subject to probate. If there is a valid will, the process can be fairly straightforward. But sometimes, even when there is a will, there’s always a possibility that unexpected problems can arise during the probate process. Probate is a court-supervised procedure of taking inventory of the decedent’s assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining property to beneficiaries. It can be a complex procedure filled with particular legal requirements.
Losing a loved one is challenging for many reasons, but it may become even more difficult if you are in charge of navigating the complex legal procedures involved in probate court. Probate problems can be diverse, sometimes involving a family dispute or practical issues that complicate the process. When problems arise during probate administration, it is imperative for those affected to work with a skilled California probate lawyer who can help explore the best possible solutions for your particular situation.
This article will give you an overview of the most common problems that may arise during the probate process.
- Allegations that an Executor Failing to Perform Fiduciary Duties
- Will Contests
- The Executor Declines to Fulfill the Role
- Disputes Over the Value of the Estate
- Missing Assets
- Multiple Will Copies
Allegations that an Executor Failing to Perform Fiduciary Duties
Problems with executors or administrators can be wide-ranging, covering everything from a simple reluctance to act to outright fraud and deception. The executor of an estate has a fiduciary duty to manage the assets for the benefit of the estate and the beneficiaries. A fiduciary duty is the strongest obligation under the law. Failure to fulfill this responsibility can complicate probate matters. In this case, the beneficiaries of the estate may have the right to file a lawsuit against that executor.
Examples of an executor breaching their fiduciary duty could include the following:
- Failing to distribute assets in conformity with the estate planning documents
- Failing to file important documentation
- Ignoring deadlines for court documents, creditors, and other time-sensitive actions
- Taking the defendants’ assets
- Misappropriating money or assets from the trust or estate
- Acting in their self-interest and disregarding the beneficiaries’ intent
- Selling assets at prices unfavorable to the estate
- Failing to comply with laws and regulations regarding the administration of the trust or estate
Contesting a will can be challenging, but it can help you rectify mistakes if you’ve either been left out of the will entirely or not, given what you feel ought to be your fair share. Certain parties may dispute the validity of your will and challenge whether it truly reflects your wishes. A qualified San Diego, CA, probate attorney can help you understand the process of contesting a will.
Sometimes, beneficiaries and heirs believe that a will isn’t valid because it was made while the deceased was made based on fraud, undue influence, mental incapacity, or the will missing some requirements for validity. In this case, you will have to rely on your executor to present strong evidence and proof that your will is valid and enforceable under probate law.
The Executor Declines to Fulfill the Role
Aside from applying for probate, an executor is also in charge of locating your assets and beneficiaries, paying off taxes, debts, and creditors, distributing your property, and wrapping up your affairs. Hence, not all people who are named executors would be willing to take on such a responsibility. Thus, when a deceased person fails to name alternatives for this role, it can cause significant delay and expense. When someone refuses to act as an executor or personal representative, the court must then get involved to appoint someone to administer probate proceedings.
Disputes Over the Value of the Estate
One of the most essential processes associated with probate is the valuation of property, money, and other estate assets. The accurate valuation of assets is important to determine if estate taxes should be assessed and in what amount. Issues over the value of the estate typically occur when the estate is close to the threshold for paying estate tax and can result in delays in the probate process.
Different parties can come up with different calculations when determining the value of an estate. When there is a significant difference in valuations, parties can expect to go through the legal system to secure a resolution. Estate value disputes can often be complicated and may require the legal advice of a knowledgeable San Diego probate lawyer.
For the assets to be distributed, your executor must be able to locate them. The probate process and transfer of ownership may be significantly delayed if any valuable assets specified in the will or other estate planning documents cannot be found. These assets might have been liquidated or sold or may currently be in possession of another person or entity. When a personal representative suspects assets are missing or a beneficiary believes that a property has been taken by someone close to the deceased, seek legal advice from a competent San Diego County probate lawyer as soon as possible.
A missing asset may have been misplaced over time, but problems can arise if there are suspicions among family members concerning the whereabouts of significant assets. Missing assets can easily lead to probate litigation. This issue can be avoided by ensuring you provide complete information regarding your assets at the time of creating your will.
Multiple Will Copies
Many people understand the importance of updating their estate planning documents throughout their lives when major life events occur. These events can include the birth or death of a family member or the divorce of the testator. However, those who have created multiple wills should review or revoke previous versions to avoid confusion upon their death.
The presence of multiple copies of a will can complicate the probate process. If the deceased person wrote multiple wills but did not make any effort to revoke the previous wills, their loved ones may be unsure which will be considered valid and submitted to the probate court. The situation becomes more complicated if there is no clear statement as to which is the most recent copy and if one copy is intended to supersede the others.
Call an Experienced San Diego Probate Lawyer Now!
When coping with the death of a loved one, the last thing you want to deal with is problems with probate. Not all probate processes conclude smoothly. You may have to go through challenges either because proper estate plans were not put in place or some issues spontaneously arose during the process. Probate disputes can sometimes result in families fighting, reduced value of assets, and other undesirable consequences.
If you or a loved one is facing any issues related to probate matters, a seasoned San Diego probate attorney at Casiano Law Firm can assist you with the best approach for your unique circumstances and needs. Schedule an initial consultation with Attorney Vincent to learn more about how his probate litigation law firm can help.