Common Reasons for Probate Litigation

There are several situations in which estate administrators, heirs and other family members find themselves in probate litigation. If a will names someone as a beneficiary, but the bequest given to them was not as large as they expected, they might contest the will. If the will names a person as a beneficiary that nobody in the family ever heard of, other beneficiaries might contest the bequest to that person.

However, not just anyone can contest a will. You have to have “standing” to contest a will. That means the will has to name you as a beneficiary in order for you to contest another beneficiary’s bequest, or you have to be an “heir at law” of the deceased testator. These are the relatives of the testator, not named in the will, who would have legally received part of the deceased’s estate had there been no will.

There are several grounds upon which people who have standing may contest a will.

Frequently, relatives of the testator may claim that someone close to the testator exerted undue influence on the deceased. Children of a first marriage, for instance, may claim the second spouse exerted undue influence over their aged parent in order to be named in the will. Accordingly, the children may not be named as beneficiaries and therefore won’t be able to collect any of their loved one’s assets.

Another recognized reason to challenge a will is the lack of testamentary capacity of the testator. A person with standing may allege that the testator was suffering from dementia at the time they signed the will. However, the testator having dementia is not enough. The challenger will have to show the testator did not know who they were or what possessions they had. Additionally, the challenger would have to show that the testator did not understand what signing a will meant.

Probate litigation can also potentially involve the estate’s personal representative. That person has a fiduciary duty to the will’s beneficiaries. A beneficiary may believe the personal representative is mishandling the administration of the estate or that he or she is not following the testator’s instructions. In an extreme case, they may believe the personal representative has stolen estate property.

In any of those instances, the beneficiaries may sue the personal representative.

If you believe you were improperly left out of a deceased relative’s will or that the bequest you receive did not reflect the testator’s true intentions, the probate litigation attorneys at Anker Law Group, P.C. in Rapid City, South Dakota, can review your circumstances and advise on the best way to proceed. Call us at 605-519-5967 or contact us online to schedule an appointment with an experienced legal professional.

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