A contested Probate may occur when heirs or beneficiaries do not agree.In California, when a decedent passes away without a Trust, assets may need to be distributed by a Probate.Probate is the process whereby the property or assets of a deceased person are transferred to heirs or beneficiaries. If the decedent had a Will and beneficiaries were listed then the Will could be probated.
In most cases a Probate is not contested, meaning that all family members (or others that are involved) are in agreement as to how the assets are to be distributed. In addition, they are usually in agreement regarding naming an administrator(s) of the estate, when there is no Will. When there is a Will, it will usually name an executor to be in charge of the estate.
However, there are times when family members and/or beneficiaries are not in agreement. In this case, each, or some, of the parties may hire their own attorney(s) to represent their interest in the estate.
When there is no Will or Trust, assets are distributed through ‘intestate succession’. This means that spouses or family members may inherit assets based on the California Probate Code. The code details who will inherit in different situations such as when the decedent had a surviving spouse, children, surviving parents and or siblings. An experienced Probate Attorney can explain who will inherit and who has priority to be administrator of the estate.
There are many ways that heirs or beneficiaries may disagree. Commonly, heirs may disagree as to who should be an administrator of the estate. Due to the fact that the administrator can be paid, some may dispute the chosen person. Heirs may not wish a certain person to be administrator for other reasons as well.
Heirs or beneficiaries may also dispute documents such as a Will. In this example those involved may think that the Will is not valid. It may not be valid if the signature does not look accurate, was not witnessed by 2 persons (if typed) or if the person was not ‘of sound mind’ when the document was signed. There may be other reasons that a Will could be found to be invalid. An attorney would need to review the document to determine validity. Sometimes a handwriting analysis needs to be made to determine if the signature is accurate. Other times doctor records may be needed to determine if the person understood the contents of the Will.
Heirs or beneficiaries may also disagree as to the sale of the asset(s). Some may wish to keep the asset while others may wish to sell. In this case, if only one heir or beneficiary wishes to sell, then the asset can be sold.
If the decedent had a Trust then a Probate would not be necessary. In some cases a Trust is disputed if someone believes or has proof that another version is found or there is a problem with a signature. There may be other reasons. A Probate lawyer would evaluate the case to determine if there was a discrepancy.