What is Contentious Probate?

Probate 26/07/19 | Superadmin

In the event of death, probate is the legal process which allows beneficiaries to take control of the deceased assets. While on occasion not necessary when there is a living spouse or a small estate, probate is essential in any other situation. This is the case whether there’s a will in place or not.

In general terms, ‘personal representatives’ will be appointed to take care of probate matters such as the selling property and closing bank or other financial accounts. If an executor has been named in a will, this responsibility will fall to them. Otherwise, a court will appoint someone to handle these matters.

Most of the time, family members will trust the selected personal representative to adhere to the deceased individual’s wishes. But that isn’t always the case. In some situations, family members or others involved will contest the actions or plans of a personal representative. And, when that happens, it leads to contentious probate.

What is contentious probate?

As the name suggests, contentious probate occurs when someone contests the probate process. In cases where there is a will, the individual contesting may argue that the wishes outlined are not being adhered to. In this instance, contentious probate can also be referred to as a ‘will dispute’. Even in cases where there is no will, an individual could contest probate for various reasons. They may also take legal action to revoke the rights of the personal representative.

Reasons for contentious probate

There is a wide range of reasons for contentious probate. For the most part, this situation is a lot more likely if there is no will, especially if verbal agreements have been made but not documented.

Even when there is a will, contentious probate can occur for reasons including –

Challenges over will validity
There may be questions about whether an individual was of sound mind during their will writing. Questions may also arise as to whether a will was signed and witnessed correctly.
Disputes over estate distribution
A personal representative may fail to distribute an estate with expressed wishes in mind. A family member may contest if they feel that a personal representative is taking too long or attempting to use their position to benefit themselves.
Inheritance act claims
In certain circumstances, an individual not mentioned in a will may be able to contest a will or probate. If an estranged daughter contested probate, for instance, the court may award a reasonable financial provision.

Proper planning to avoid contentious probate

Irrelevant of the reasons, contentious probate can be distressing at an already difficult time. In some cases, it can even lead to family disputes and serious disagreements which are never pleasant during a bereavement. As such, individuals should do whatever they can to avoid contentious probate. And, the best way to achieve that goal is to turn to Philips Trust Corporation for everything from making a will to probate and estate planning. The clearer an individual is about their wishes while alive, after all, the less risk that any issues of contentious probate will arise later.

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