Discovering that you are left out of a will of your deceased family members can feel like a betrayal, especially when you have expected that you will be able to inherit something from them. The disappointment can add to the pain and grief you are experiencing and it can cause friction within the family.
If you’re in this situation, you may need legal advice to know if you have grounds to dispute the will. An experienced litigation lawyer can shed light on why you are excluded from partaking in a share of the inheritance. The matter is also time-sensitive. Hence it is crucial to find a trusted attorney to help you through probate litigation.
If you’re asking yourself the question, what is probate litigation and how it can benefit from it, read on.
Definition of probate litigation
Probate litigation is a legal proceeding that deals with the interference of an expected inheritance claim, disputing a trust, contesting a will, addressing undue influence or capacity issue, quiet title to a real estate property, or securing a property that was wrongfully taken from the rightful owner.
Steps to prove legally that you should be included in the will
Step 1: Ask yourself if you are willing to face legal hurdles
Contesting a deceased will can be challenging. However, taking immediate action is necessary if you believe that your non-inclusion as an heir is due to manipulation during the diminishing mental estate of the person, coercion, or fraud. If you have solid evidence that someone is behind your exclusion from the will, you need to be ready to shell out money, fight for your rights, and face your own family in the court battle ahead.
Step 2: Get a copy of the will
Once you decide to go forward, you need to request the will executor for a copy of the will, its previous versions, and the list of the assets. In case the estate of the deceased person is already in probate, the court can give you a copy and inform you of the time you need to dispute the will, which can be 20 days or three months, depending on the case. Your probate attorney can help you obtain the copy on your behalf.
Step 3: Talk to your attorney
Consult your lawyer and show him the will. He will give you a realistic opinion if you have a chance to win the claim. The lawyer will also check if there is a clear error in the will, the words used are not clear, or a more recent will is missing or destroyed based on a document that the deceased left to a professional advisor. You may also write down what you and the deceased had discussed before he died. Be detailed as much as possible and include what was promised to you. Bear in mind that it is also possible that the deceased can disperse his properties and assets to whoever he wants to.
Disputing the will entails submitting ironclad proof that
- the deceased was a victim of fraud
- the deceased has suffered mental impairment
- the deceased was pressured or coerced
- the will fails to meet the regulations of the state
- the deceased owed you money for the services or work on the estate
Step 4: File the will challenge
Seeing enough grounds to contest the deceased’s will, your lawyer will help you file your claim to invalidate the current version and use the previous version that names you as a beneficiary. If there is more than one revision, you need to contest each of them and prove that the one with your name as an heir is the legitimate will. You need to present more proof and be ready for a more difficult fight in this situation.
Step 5: Consider mediation
Most often, lawyers of the opposing parties would recommend an out-of-court settlement. This option is wise considering that you are family. It also helps you avoid inconveniences regarding money, time, and hard feelings. Mediation is also a way to mend the family ties and honor the deceased loved one.
The battle to prove that you are one of the rightful beneficiaries of the deceased family member is not easy. This can be a heartbreaking situation as it involves your loved ones. Navigating the complex legal process requires a competent lawyer that will guide you every step. Having a knowledgeable and dedicated legal professional to represent you is the key to the successful outcome of your case.