What A Probate Attorney Looks At In An Estate

Law Blog

If you're trying to make sense of what happened with an estate, there's value in trying to think about the case as a probate attorney would. You're probably not a provider of probate attorney services, but you can examine these four basic issues to determine whether you ought to contact a professional.

Recent Changes to a Will

It's not necessarily a red flag right away, but recent changes to a will in the time leading up to a loved one's death deserve greater scrutiny. This is especially the case if there's a hint that someone had what's called an undue influence in the changes. If a parent married just before the changes were rendered, for example, that's something a probate attorney will look at closely. The changes may be legit, but it doesn't hurt at minimum to make them stand up to the scrutiny of a lawyer's review.

Ambiguous Language

While it's easy to leap to dramatic and nefarious conclusions about wills, sometimes the biggest problems are just mundane ambiguities or mistakes. If the language in a will doesn't clearly resolve a question, a judge may invalidate it. The entire point of an estate is to conclusively resolve the disposition of a person's legacy, after all.

Lack of Sufficient Contingencies

Notably, this issue only arises if the contingencies are necessary. A judge will not humor arguments about, for example, the lack of successorship in the executor's role if the primary executor is alive and able to handle the estate.

However, if there are issues involving unaddressed contingencies, those deserve a fair hearing. For example, what happens if a beneficiary's lineage stops with them and that beneficiary has passed since the will was last modified? Should the executor equally divide the assets among the remaining beneficiaries, even if the decedent didn't divide the entire estate equally?

Administrative Incompetence or Malfeasance

When an executor accepts their role, they also accept fiduciary duties to the beneficiaries. Suppose an estate ended up taking a couple of years to dispose of. The executor is responsible for administering the assets in the meantime with the least risk possible.

For example, they should pay for basic maintenance out of the estate's money to keep up physical properties. If they allowed a house's roof to collapse without hiring a contractor to fix it, the beneficiaries can claim back the economic loss from the executor in court. Unsurprisingly, deliberate conduct, such as theft, misuse, and self-dealing involving the estate, are also compensable.

To learn more, contact a probate attorney.


25 August 2020

Dealing with Estate Planning When You're Single

Too many single people assume they don't need to plan their estate. My brother fell into this category, and his unexpected passing left our entire family struggling to deal with his home, belongings, and financial accounts. It took nearly three years for the courts to set up a deal because he left no paperwork detailing how he wanted his estate divided. The situation immediately convinced me to work on my own estate, even though I'm still in my early 30's and don't have children or a spouse to worry about. Since it's a little harder to pick beneficiaries and estate managers when you're single, I collected the resources I used for making my own decisions and decided to publish them here on my blog. Use these resources before talking to an estate planning attorney so you're prepared for making hard decisions.