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What are common reasons to contest estates and last wills?

Few people have more than a cursory knowledge of the probate process until they find themselves involved with an estate. Even if you created your own estate plan, you likely relied on the guidance of an attorney to create your will. So, you may still be confused now that you need to administer an estate as executor or if you are a beneficiary to a large estate.

One issue that people often find confusing when and how to contest a will or estate administration process. If you are an executor, you may be nervous about possible challenges to your role as administrator of the estate. If you are an heir, you may have similar questions about when you should consider challenging a last will or estate administration. Knowing the most common causes for contesting an estate can help you make informed decisions about your situation.

Heirs believe that a will is not valid

This is the most common reason people contest a will. When the contents of a last will and testament deviate from what a family expects, they may be concerned enough to bring a challenge in court.

This is a common issue in families where one spouse remarries and later attempts to leave the vast majority of assets to the new spouse, instead of to children, grandchildren and other heirs. It is also a concern when someone rewrites a will in the last months or weeks of his or her life.

Concerns about undue influence or duress at the time of signing a will could also be grounds to contest the contents of a will. If there is reason to believe that the deceased suffered from impaired cognitive abilities at the time of the will's creation, concerned parties could dispute the resulting terms.

Heirs believe estate administration has been mismanaged

Even in scenarios where the a person's will is clearly legal, it is still possible for the estate to end up in probate litigation. Even if all heirs and family members recognize the validity of the last will, they may feel that the executor has mismanaged the administration of the estate. This is why anyone acting as executor should handle all matters in a timely fashion and maintain thorough records about all assets and obligations.

If family members, beneficiaries or heirs have concerns about the executor's inability or unwillingness to complete the necessary tasks in a timely manner, they can challenge the administration of the estate. In this scenario, the executor will need to demonstrate his or her efforts to properly handle the estate to the court. If the courts do not feel that the individual's performance is sufficient, they may name a new executor to handle the estate.

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