Litigation over inheritance is never pleasant. Families can be torn apart when someone believes they are not receiving their fair share, whether right or wrong. The best strategy is to avoid these situations before they happen by enacting a litigation-proof estate plan. Doing so will save your family money, time, and heartache.
An experienced attorney at Robbins Estate Law can help you create a comprehensive estate plan that will minimize the risk of litigation. We can also help you maximize the benefits provided to your beneficiaries by reducing unnecessary taxes and the time your estate spends in probate.
Unfortunately, sometimes litigation is unavoidable. Loved ones can change their estate under duress before they pass, or clauses in poorly written estate plans can be vague and confusing. Everyone involved deserves their fair share. Robbins Estate Law can help in these situations as well. We have extensive experience fighting for our client’s rights in probate and estate litigation settings. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.
Further, if you are thinking about litigating an issue with an estate, it can be helpful to understand the difference between probate and estate litigation.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the court process that oversees the administration of a decedent’s estate. In Texas, all probate assets linked to intestate estates and estates distributed through a last will and testament must go through probate proceedings. During these proceedings, the courts identify the heirs, ensure the estate pays all of its debts, and then distribute the remaining assets to heirs. Depending on the circumstances, the court distributes the assets based on a will or Texas’s intestate succession statute.
What Is Probate Litigation?
In general, probate litigation is the court process of handling conflicts that arise during probate proceedings. These conflicts can range from disputes over guardianship to attempts to invalidate a will. Individuals pursue probate litigation most often in the contexts of intestate estates and poorly written or ambiguous last wills. Improper conduct by the executor of an estate is also a common reason to pursue probate litigation.
What Is Estate Litigation?
Usually, estate litigation refers to any legal dispute involving the assets of a person who has passed away. Under this definition, probate litigation is a subset of estate litigation.
Sometimes the term estate litigation refers to the court processes dealing with conflicts over distributing non-probate assets. Non-probate assets include assets a decedent passes to beneficiaries through a trust or other legal conveyance that avoids probate proceedings. Estate litigation often involves disputes over improper conduct by a trustee or conflicts about ambiguous terms within trust documents.
Key Probate and Estate Litigation Differences
No matter the circumstances, litigation over an estate can be costly, reducing the total benefit distributed to heirs. The critical difference between probate litigation and estate litigation is the overarching context of the proceedings from which the litigation stems. In practice, this distinction matters little to the litigants themselves, as there are a lot of overlapping issues. In both contexts, the priority is ensuring that everyone gets the share of an estate’s assets that they are entitled to.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Can Pursue Probate or Estate Litigation in Texas?
Any interested party can pursue probate or estate litigation in Texas. Interested parties include spouses and children of the deceased, beneficiaries and potential beneficiaries, and anyone who would receive an inheritance under intestacy laws or prior wills or trusts.
What Are Some Common Reasons to Pursue Probate or Estate Litigation?
There are several contexts under which probate or estate litigation can come up. First, litigators can attempt to invalidate a will. Reasons to invalidate a will include the following:
- Lack of testamentary capacity,
- The presence of undue influence,
- The will was never properly executed, and
- Any other failure to comply with Texas law.
A second common reason to pursue probate or estate litigation is improper conduct by an estate’s executor or a trustee. In both cases, the person responsible for managing and distributing the estate has fiduciary duties towards the estate’s beneficiaries. When they breach their duties, sometimes litigation is necessary.
How Much Does Probate or Estate Litigation Cost?
It is difficult to predict how much estate litigation will cost without an in-depth understanding of a particular case. In most cases, litigation adds unnecessary expense and reduces the benefit provided to heirs. More straightforward cases can be litigated for less, while complex issues cost more to litigate. An experienced litigation attorney from Robbins Estate Law can work with you to fully understand the costs and benefits of pursuing probate or estate litigation.
Robbins Estate Law Can Advocate for You
Whether you want to minimize the chances your estate will face litigation or need someone to advocate for your rights and litigate on your behalf, Robbins Estate Law can help. With years of experience in estate planning, probate litigation, and estate litigation, our attorneys will guide you through every step in the process. Contact Robbins Estate Law today and schedule a consultation.