Probate litigation delays the distribution of property from an estate and can also increase how much it costs to carry out someone’s last wishes. Many testators who craft an estate plan make avoiding probate court one of their top priorities.
Despite those efforts, sometimes family members have little choice other than to pursue probate litigation because of unignorable issues. Sometimes, litigation begins with questions about an outside party’s influence on a will. Other times, family members accept the estate plan but have issues with the executor or personal representative of the estate. These are the most common reasons that beneficiaries and family members take issue with the representative tasked with estate administration in Washington.
Delays in the probate process
Probate is a lengthy process that usually requires that individuals wait many months, if not more than a year, to receive their inheritances. The timeline for that process can become substantially longer and more frustrating when the representative tasked with estate administration fails to file paperwork and initiate the probate proceedings in a timely manner. Inaction and delays are some of the more common reasons that people challenge the personal representative of an estate.
Deviations from the estate plan
Those who agree to serve as the personal representative of an estate often have relationships with many of the beneficiaries in addition to a relationship with the testator. Sometimes, they let their personal biases influence how they handle estate administration. They might even go so far as to deny someone a portion of their inheritance or to lie to beneficiaries about their rights and the terms included in the paperwork because of their personal opinions. When a representative does not carefully follow the estate plan, their inability or refusal to do so could warrant their removal from their position.
Embezzlement or theft from the estate
A Washington representative tasked with estate administration will typically receive some amount of compensation for their efforts. They should not seek to earn secondary profits by hiring their own business at an unreasonable markup or taking possession of assets from the estate for personal benefit. Evidence that a representative has embezzled from the estate or sought to enrich themselves or their family members through their role may open them up to litigation that could remove them from their position.
Family members and beneficiaries who understand the scenarios that might warrant probate litigation will be in a better position to protect their inheritance and stand up for the intentions of their loved ones. Knowing when to push back against a representative’s incompetence, inaction or corruption can help to preserve someone’s inheritance rights and also the legacy wishes of the deceased party. Seeking legal guidance can provide that kind of clarity.