Death in the family often brings out both the best and worst in people. If you are dealing with the recent illness and death of a loved one, you may have found that you had strength that you never expected to get through the challenging times. An experienced McKinney probate litigation attorney can work to resolve conflict before it becomes an expensive court battle.
Others around you may have provided support — or they may have complained about every decision or taken actions you know to be wrong. If that’s the case, then, unfortunately, you will likely face more challenges ahead during the probate process. The prospect of dividing property and how to handle debt can quickly generate conflict even in the most harmonious families. At the Nordhaus Firm, we are dedicated to protecting our client’s interests, which includes conserving resources by solving problems without excessive legal fees and court costs.
Understanding Terms Associated with Probate Litigation
People who have not experienced the Texas probate process are amazed at the complexity. Rules designed to protect creditors and beneficiaries make proceedings very complicated. To start out with, it is helpful to understand the terms used:
- Probate is the legal process where the court acknowledges someone’s death, ensures payment of their debts, and oversees the distribution of assets
- Litigation refers to the process of settling a dispute through the court system
- Decedent is the term the probate courts use to refer to the person who passed away
- Estate refers to all types of property left behind by the decedent
- Beneficiaries are the people who receive property under the terms of a will
- Heirs are the people who inherit under the law if the decedent did not have a will
- Executor is the person named in the will to handle the estate
- Administrator is someone named by the court to fulfill the duties of an executor if no executor has been named
Executors and administrators are often referred to as personal representatives.
While an estate sounds like something only wealthy people have to worry about, it is important to realize that everyone leaves an estate, and the law requires many of these estates to go through some form of probate. When any form of complication, question, or conflict arises during the process, a knowledgeable McKinney probate litigation attorney can work to find a solution that avoids delays and added expenses.
Simple Conflicts That Can Turn into Complex Problems
When it comes to probate, courts presume very little. Instead, to protect the interests of those involved, everything needs to be proven. This includes the validity of a will to the identity of heirs and witnesses. That can create fertile ground for potential conflict. Small matters can turn into complex legal battles.
For instance, if a will is not drafted in terms that allow it to be “self-proved,” then the testimony of the witnesses is necessary to prove the validity. If the will did not include language allowing for independent administration, then the executor or administrator will need to ask the court for permission to take action without court approval.
The court may deny the request, particularly if someone with an interest in the estate objects to independent administration. In that case, the court will oversee the administration process in very close detail. The executor or administrator will need to submit a formal request for every action, such as paying a bill or selling an asset to cover debts. The court will need to approve each and every step.
When the decedent did not have a will, the opportunities for problems requiring resolution through the legal process can increase. The court will need to be satisfied that they have located all potential heirs, for instance. If the decedent was married at the time of death, the property they owned before marriage could be treated differently than the property they acquired during the marriage, so identifying and proving separate property becomes a complex issue to resolve.
Creditors might file claims that potentially interfere with homestead laws or personal property exemptions. Family members might seek to have a different person named as executor or administrator, or they might claim that the person administering the estate acted improperly and breached their fiduciary duty. The help of a McKinney probate litigation attorney can allow for the resolution of all these types of matters without extensive legal battles.
When Someone Contests a Will
People cannot challenge a will’s validity simply because they think it is unfair. Texas law only allows someone to contest the terms of a will by proving it was invalid for some reason.
A probate litigation lawyer might help a family member, beneficiary or creditor contest a will for reasons such as:
- A newer valid will supersedes the one at issue
- The will at issue was forged or not properly executed
- Someone unfairly influenced the decedent, which caused them to include terms they would not have otherwise included.
Just because a challenge is filed in court, however, does not mean that it is necessary to wait for a judge to hear all the arguments and deliberate over the outcome. A McKinney probate litigation attorney can help parties settle matters through mediation, negotiation, or other methods out of court to save time and legal expenses.
Work with a McKinney Probate Litigation Attorney Focused on Finding Efficient Solutions
Some litigators find legal battles exhilarating. While they might eventually win their point in a claim, the resulting expenses drain the resources of everyone involved, so their client may still end up losing money.
At the Nordhaus Firm, we approach probate litigation differently. We seek to gain our client’s objectives and protect their interests in the most efficient manner possible so that everyone comes out ahead. Finding amicable solutions reduces the emotional toll in probate as well the financial costs.
To learn more about how a dedicated McKinney probate litigation attorney can resolve outstanding matters and protect your interests throughout the probate process, contact the Nordhaus Firm today to arrange a confidential consultation.