When a loved one has died, you want their estate to be administered in accordance with both their wishes and with the law. Unfortunately, things don’t always go according to plan; for those situations, it may be appropriate and necessary to initiate a will contest or other estate litigation.
The most common reasons for initiating estate litigation in Texas include the following:
1. Demands for accountings. Texas law says that interested parties have the legal right to obtain accountings of estate assets from the independent executor, any time in the 15 months after independent estate administration begins. If the accounting is not provided within 60 days of the request, the requestor can file suit to demand the accounting.
2. Lack of capacity. Sometimes, loved ones have questions about whether the decedent had the legal and mental capacity to sign a will or other estate document.
3. Undue influence. If the decedent did have mental capacity to create a will or codicil but there are concerns that a family member, a caregiver or anyone else improperly coerced the decedent to sign the document(s), estate litigation may be appropriate.
4. Breach of fiduciary duty. Executors and administrators must act in a fiduciary capacity, acting in the best interest of the estate and its beneficiaries. Sometimes there are concerns that a fiduciary is acting in his or her own best interest, or is otherwise mis-managing or improperly handling an estate.
5. Removal/replacement of administrators and executors. In addition to concerns about fiduciary duty, mismanagement of the estate or failure to provide accountings, administrators and executors may need to be replaced because of their own incapacity.
6. Conflicting wills. Different family members or other beneficiaries may produce different documents, claiming that they each hold the official last will. Estate litigation can help clarify issues that arise with conflicting wills, and may address allegations of fraud or forgery.
7. Legal defects. There are legal formalities that must be followed in order for a will to be legal under state law; if these have not been followed, estate litigation may be necessary to determine whether a will is legally valid.
8. Heirship determinations. Estate litigation may be necessary to identify and locate heirs to an estate.
If you have questions about the administration of a loved one’s estate, hiring an attorney with experience in estate litigation is an important first step to protect your rights under the law. To learn more, contact us today.