In the aftermath of the death of a loved one, it can be difficult to manage all of the logistics that arise when dealing with an estate. Emotions are often high and disputes can quickly arise between interested parties. Understanding common disputes and what to expect can go a long way towards helping to manage stress and reduce the burdens that the probate process can bring.

In South Dakota, after someone passes away, their estate, unless valued at less than $100,000, must go through the probate process so that their wishes can be determined and their assets distributed accordingly. During this process, it is possible for disputes over the distribution of certain assets to arise or for parties to contest certain provisions of a will, or even the existence of the will itself. These types of disputes can become time-consuming and emotionally challenging for all parties involved.

One of the common grounds for contesting a will is a claim of undue influence or fraud. In South Dakota, undue influence occurs when one individual persuades the testator to make certain additions to a will or make certain changes for the individual’s benefit. South Dakota law recognizes three particular situations where undue influence may occur:

  • One party has a particular confidence or authority over another
  • One party takes advantage of another’s weakness of the mind
  • One party takes advantage of another party in duress. 

Proving undue influence is a high bar and a difficult standard to meet. Alternatively, a party may dispute the validity of the will in its entirety. For example, someone may argue that the maker of the will was not of sound mind at the time it was executed. Another ground might be that the will is fraudulent and does not actually represent the intent of the decedent. Parties may argue that the will was fabricated by another or may be a draft will that was fraudulently signed.

Parties may also challenge the qualifications of the executor of the will. The executor named in the will may not wish to serve or allegedly may not be competent to do so. For all of these reasons, it is important that anyone involved in a probate proceeding be prepared for the possibility of disputes during the process.

Speaking with a probate and estate administration attorney who understands the issues that can arise during probate can help you to evaluate whether you may have any claims involving a will and how to respond if others raise issues during your probate proceeding.

At Anker Law Group, P.C., we frequently represent clients who are navigating the probate process and need legal guidance when a dispute arises. If you have questions or need representation, please call our Rapid City office at 605-519-5967 or contact us online anytime.

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    1301 West Omaha Street
    Suite 207
    Rapid City, South Dakota 57701