If you're involved in a probate dispute because of a loved one's estate, it's natural to feel overwhelmed. While the most common form of probate litigation is a will contest, disputes may also involve other estate planning documents, including trusts.
No matter your particular situation, our attorneys at Leet Law are here to shoulder your burden and help you seek favorable results. With a law office in San Jose, California, we serve clients throughout the state of California, including Palo Alto, San Francisco, Oakland, and the rest of the Bay Area.
The term "probate" refers to the court-supervised legal proceedings during which the court authenticates the decedent's will and oversees the distribution of the deceased person's assets and property. The court also appoints the executor of the decedent's estate to carry out the wishes of the deceased person and transfer the assets to the intended beneficiaries. Probate is also used to allow the decedent's creditors to file claims against the estate.
Disputes during the probate process may arise for various reasons. However, the most common causes of probate litigation include:
- Undue influence. Interested parties may challenge the validity of the decedent's will or other estate planning documents if they can prove that another person used undue influence on the deceased person to gain an advantage.
- Fraud. If the deceased person became a victim of fraud when creating the provisions for a will or another estate planning document, interested parties could file a claim alleging fraud.
- Invalid will. If someone can prove that the decedent's will is not valid because the deceased person failed to follow the legal formalities when creating the document, the validity of the will can be contested.
- Lack of capacity. The person writing a will must have testamentary capacity. In California, an individual has testamentary capacity when they reach the age of 18 and are of sound mind. If the decedent lacked testamentary capacity when the will was created, interested parties could contest the validity of the will.
- Breach of fiduciary duty. The executor of the decedent's estate owes fiduciary duties to the beneficiaries. Failure to act in the best interests of the estate and beneficiaries could result in a breach of fiduciary duty claim.
When a dispute cannot be resolved through negotiation or communication, the parties may consider probate litigation as the only option for resolving the dispute. If the dispute necessitates probate litigation, it will be handled by a judge through the court system.
- The probate litigation process involves the following steps:
- An interested party files a complaint alleging undue influence, invalid will, lack of capacity, fraud, or another type of wrongdoing;
- A copy of the complaint is served to other parties involved in probate;
- The respondents (the parties served with the complaint) have the opportunity to submit a response to the allegations in the complaint;
- The parties investigate the allegations, gather evidence, and participate in other legal proceedings associated with probate litigation;
- The parties ask the court to resolve the dispute;
- The judge will review and resolve the dispute.
The probate litigation process can be confusing and complicated, especially when you are trying to cope with the loss of your loved one. Reach out to a probate litigation attorney in San Jose, California, to assist you with your dispute.
At Leet Law, our experienced and results-driven probate litigation attorneys are dedicated to helping clients in San Jose, California, and throughout the Bay Area resolve their disputes in the most efficient manner possible. We represent beneficiaries, heirs, fiduciaries, executors, creditors, and other interested parties in all types of probate litigation matters. Get a case review with our skilled attorneys by reaching out to our office.