Ordinarily, probate court proceedings focus on standard tasks essential to settling the affairs of someone who has died, such as paying off debts and taxes and then distributing the assets based on a will, or the laws of intestate succession.Unfortunately, legal contests can arise, resulting in messy and lengthy litigation.
Conflict and Dysfunction
Legal experts note that family conflict is commonly at the roots of probate litigation. Specifically, Justia notes: “High-risk factors for probate litigation include sibling rivalry, second marriages, and dysfunctional families.” Essentially, probate litigation can be categorized as the filing of “any legal contest that arises due to a person’s death or mental incapacity” in a probate court. As Justia further explains:
This process involves court battles among those still living over issues such as guardianships and conservatorships, powers of attorney, will or trust contests, and living wills. Probate litigation can refer to a number of situations. Common examples include:
- Challenges to the validity of a will;
- Suits regarding the construction or interpretation of wills and trusts;
- Contests over the appointment or conduct of a guardian;
- Trust reformation or modification lawsuits;
- Suits brought to terminate a trust because the trust’s purpose has become impracticable; and
- Suits by beneficiaries against a fiduciary, such as an executor or trustee, for failing to act in accordance with the law or a legal document.
It’s helpful to know that probate courts frequently require a type of fiduciary bond known as a probate bond. A probate bond protects the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries in accordance with state law. Colonial Surety makes it quick and easy to obtain probate bonds—and all types of fiduciary bonds—written to the specifications of obligees in every state. The steps to obtaining a probate bond with Colonial are easy: get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter a payment method. Print or e-file the bond from anywhere—even while at court. It’s that simple. Probate Bonds Here.
Family dynamics can of course be challenging in life, and unresolved issues have a way of bubbling up following a death in the family. Legal experts note for example, that the omission of a spouse or child from estate plans, secret beneficiaries, and overly detailed trust arrangements are often triggers of probate litigation. So too is lack of trust in the designated fiduciary for the estate:
A poorly appointed fiduciary (the trustee of a trust or the executor of an estate) also can lead to probate litigation. This situation typically occurs when the fiduciary is a poor communicator, is unskilled at following instructions, procrastinates, is untrustworthy, is susceptible to the influence of others, is disorganized, or lacks common sense. The likelihood of probate litigation also increases when two parties have been named to act together as co-fiduciaries.
Though there are many probate misunderstandings afloat, the reality is that when families are communicating and have had a chance to get organized, probate can proceed smoothly. Many states have even implemented simplified and expedited procedures, based on the assets and circumstances involved. Given that conflicts and competing claims are always a possibility, estate planners remind us that the probate process can turn out to be very helpful. As Flick Law Group points out: the public nature of probate proceedings can promote accountability among family members, while ensuring claims are properly addressed.
Attorney? Time Sensitive Bond Request?
No worries. The services of The Partnership Account for Attorneys give you direct, digital access to Colonial’s full portfolio of fiduciary and court bonds. With The Partnership Account for Attorneys® you can log in anytime, from anywhere, access our complete portfolio of bonds, get a quote, forward it to your client to enter payment, and, voila: download and file the bond on the spot.
Go ahead, do it from your mobile and e-file before leaving court (or the zoom room). Need a particular bond to fulfill the specific requirements of an obligee? We’re a direct writer—we’ve got this! Our digital bond portfolio includes: administrator, estate, executor, fiduciary, guardian, personal representative, probate, surrogate, trustee, conservator and more.
Litigation pending? Yes, we also have appeal, supersedeas, injunction, replevin, receiver bonds—and more.
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