When a person passes away, sometimes their heirs and beneficiaries may not receive the inheritance they expected. This often creates conflict and other disputes which result in probate contests and estate litigation. By the same token, problems can arise during probate when family members withhold information from beneficiaries or intentionally mislead each other. Fortunately, most California probate contests are settled outside of court. As a result, California probate contests and estate litigation rarely end up going to trial. Contact A People’s Choice for more information on how to deal with family members who may contest your loved one’s estate.  Read on to learn more about California probate contests and estate litigation.

All estates over $166,250 in value and not in a living trust are required to be probated in some manner under California law. Generally speaking, probate involves the court supervised process of selling the decedent’s assets to pay outstanding creditors. With this in mind, any remaining assets can be distributed to the decedent’s beneficiaries and heirs. In addition to filing full probate for larger estates, California has other simplified probate processes that can be used to settle a decedent’s estate.

“A People’s Choice helped me file an objection to a probate petition filed by my father’s wife (my stepmother). They also helped me put together my own new probate petition asking that I represent my father’s estate.” An attorney had asked me to pay a starting payment of $15,000 to do this, a lot less than the couple of thousand dollars I paid A People’s Choice.” Sarah B.
“The staff member I worked with spent a lot of time with me going over all the facts and background of my situation so that I could explain to the court why my petition should be approved and not my stepmother’s” When it was all done, I was really happy with the final paperwork.” Sarah B.
“At the hearing, the first thing the judge did was compliment me on my documents. That was sure unexpected! Then the judge spent a bit of time reading our documents and reading the other person’s documents. In the end, I won on my objection and the judge appointed me representative!” Sarah B.
“I cannot say how very happy I am for choosing A People’s Choice to help me in this.Yes, I knew they were not lawyers and could not give me legal advice. I just believed that if the judge was clearly given all the facts, that there was a good chance I would win. My gamble paid off and I saved a ton of money!” Sarah B.

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California Probate Contests

Most probate cases are quite simple and rarely contested. Probate contests and estate litigation often involve disputes among surviving beneficiaries or heirs and include the following:

  • Family members challenging whether a will is valid
  • Beneficiaries or other people challenging the specific wording of a will
  • Lawsuits filed to end or invalidate a trust
  • Beneficiaries filing a lawsuit against the personal representative for not acting properly and consistent with California probate laws or the will

Warning Signs of Potential Probate Contests and Estate Litigation

Common warning signs of probate contests and estate litigation include sibling rivalry, a decedent with multiple marriages, and quarrelsome families. Depending on the nature of conflict, you may be able to solve the dispute without hiring an attorney. Although this may be true, you may want to talk with an attorney to discuss your legal options. For example, the attorney can explain the law, tell you the legal arguments you should make or research case law to help you make informed decisions.

California Estate Litigation

In addition to probate contests, other estate disputes can come up as well. For example, a brother or sister may challenge whether the will is valid after a parent has died. At the same time, a family member may also challenge the appointment of a conservator or guardian over a loved one. Common estate litigated matters include the following:

  • Family members disputing the will validity
  • Family members challenging the decedent’s competency when the will was signed.
  • Disputes about the value and owner of decedent’s bank accounts, personal property, or real property
  • Arguments about a family-run businesses
  • Improper administration of a will or a trust

Beneficiaries or a fiduciary typically file most probate litigation.

We always recommend consulting with an attorney as soon as you believe there may be potential estate disputes. On the positive side, you can meet with an attorney on a hourly basis to help save yourself money while attempting to settle the dispute outside of court. On the negative side, California probate contests and estate litigation are not cheap. In fact, the process can been extremely expensive and sometimes the result may not justify the cost. Contact A People’s Choice for more information about California probate contests and estate litigation.

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