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3 common situations that could lead to probate litigation

Sometimes the reason families end up in NY Surrogate’s Court is not simply to seek the probate of a will, but because of litigation.

Indeed, a person interested in an estate often has the right to initiate a legal proceeding, or proceedings, due to an issue with an estate or a trust. Litigation can arise for a variety of circumstances. Most NY Surrogate’s Court litigation occurs because of one or more of the three issues outlined below.

Contested validity of a Will or Trust

Most adults have the legal ability to create an estate plan. Still, not all estate plans are valid. Perhaps family members believe that fraud affected the terms set in the documents, or maybe someone believes that another family member exerted undue influence on the testator when they drafted their documents. Even concerns about someone’s cognitive state when they drafted their documents might warrant litigation where people contest estate planning paperwork.

Worries about a fiduciary’s conduct

Family members and beneficiaries of an estate or trust may initiate probate litigation when they feel concerned about the conduct of the person administering the trust or estate. Perhaps assets have gone missing from the estate, leading to suspicions of embezzlement. Maybe someone has simply proved incompetent when trying to manage estate resources. When someone’s inaction, negligence or misconduct negatively impacts the value of estate resources, litigation to remove and replace the fiduciary – and recover assets – may occur.

Disputes about unclear or missing documents

Perhaps family members must go to court because they could not locate estate planning paperwork and worry about what may transpire during intestate succession proceedings. Perhaps there are estate planning documents, but the paperwork is unclear. When there is uncertainty about the true intentions of the testator or a lack of paperwork, litigation can sometimes result. Family members may argue over specific terms or certain assets.


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