A death in the family is a tragic event. Between the grief and sadness, loved ones can struggle to cope with the loss for quite some time. Adding in a contentious estate administration process, and this experience can be particularly upsetting.
Unfortunately, administration conflicts do happen. And when they do, they can delay distributions, cost money and push personal relationships beyond their breaking point. This fallout can often stem from having to go to court.
Why cases go to court
If someone passes away and leaves a clear, comprehensive estate plan and appoints a capable party to administer the estate, there may be no need for litigation.
However, estate disputes can arise when elements of an estate plan or an administrator's actions come under fire.
For instance, the following scenarios may require litigation:
- Disputes over the legitimacy and enforceability of the will
- Contests of a will-maker's mental capacity
- Allegations that the executor or administrator is not capable of fulfilling his or her responsibilities
- Misconduct or failure to perform duties by the executor or administrator
- Claims regarding unjust enrichment
- Challenges of property ownership
These situations can be too complicated or contentious to resolve outside of court.
Preparing for litigation
If going to court becomes necessary, it is crucial to prepare accordingly. Measures you may want to take include:
- Preserving any written correspondence regarding estate matters
- Documenting relevant conversations
- Refraining from further complicating matters by talking to a lawyer
- Collecting paperwork including receipts, bills and titles
- Avoiding actions that could be construed as harassing, illegal or improper
Taking these steps can be vital in terms of having supporting evidence and making a solid claim.
That said, it is also critical to understand that estate disputes often involve more than numbers and legal motions. Personal relationships and complicated emotions can go hand-in-hand with the legal process, so you might also consider speaking with a counsellor to protect your mental and emotional health.
When complications during the estate administration process arise, know that litigation may be the best or only way to resolve the issue. And with proper support and preparation, it can be easier to navigate this situation more easily.