Sadly, the death of a loved one doesn’t always means that family members and beneficiaries will get along. Often, the opposite situation occurs – after the death of a parent, children have emotional reasons for disputing how the decedent’s Estate will be handled. A need for control, or the desire for money to pay off debts may be contributing factor that drives probate disputes.
Probate in Georgia refers to the court process of transferring a deceased person’s assets to their heirs or beneficiaries. Every Probate estate must have a personal representative appointed.
Being a personal representative of an estate means they have the right to collect the assets and distribute the assets. It also means having the responsibility for paying any taxes and any outstanding creditors.
Seniors and anyone who is preparing for their death are well-advised to see an experienced Probate and Estate lawyer before they die. With the right legal documents and the correct strategies, many disputes can be avoided.
Some of the common types of disputes Brian M. Douglas and Associates LLC counsel’s clients about are below.
Which will controls?
Sometimes there are two or even three wills. In this case, there will be a review to see which will is valid. Valid wills must make clear what is to be done with the Estate and must be properly signed and executed.
If more than one meets the basic requirements, Georgia law determines which will is valid. Often the testator, the person who makes the will, prepares a codicils (amendment) to his will which must meet legal formalities, too.
Who will be the personal representative of the Estate?
Typically, the will appoints a personal representative (an executor/executrix) to handle the Estate. If there is no will, then your lawyer will explain which heirs, relatives, or other parties can request to be appointed a personal representative and how that appointment happens.
Was there any undue influence in the preparation of the decedent’s will?
Undue influence generally means that the decedent was pressured to make a will that he/she normally would not have made – to benefit the person doing the pressuring over other more logical beneficiaries.
Did the decedent have the testamentary capacity to execute a will?
If the decedent did not have the proper mental capacity to make a will, the will can be contested. For example, if the person had dementia when he/she made the will, then the will could likely be challenged.
What happens if there is no will?
If there is no will, then the Georgia laws of intestate inheritance dictate who is entitled to receive the decedent’s assets. Resolving probate contests is not necessarily the end of Estate litigation.
Even when it is finally clear who should be the personal representative and which will controls, there can still be disputes about how the Estate is being handled and if the representative is meeting his/her legal obligations.
Contact Brian M. Douglas and Associates Today
For more information, please call Georgia attorney Brian M. Douglas at (770) 933-9009 to discuss your questions and to make an appointment, or contact us online.