Handling Probate Disputes In And Out Of Court

Once a person dies, their will must be examined by the court and accepted as a valid public document. After the process is approved, or granted probate, the executor of the estate can oversee the distribution of property. If a person has died without a will, the court may appoint an executor to close out all the affairs of the deceased. Any taxes on real estate or other property are settled from the estate, and creditors are notified so that they can stake a claim before distribution. At this point, probate disputes may be initiated by the family or other parties.

Why Probate Disputes Arise

While the process sounds smooth, litigation often arises during probate from dissatisfied heirs who wish to contest the will and from creditors and other entities who present claims against the estate. Typical disputes might revolve around whether all parties believe that the deceased was in their right mind when crafting the will and whether the distribution was correct given the facts. For example, one child who provided the sole care to parent might argue against equal distribution among siblings. Probate court may also be where issues of guardianship and conservatorship come into play, if the deceased left behind minor children.

Even though opposing ideas of “fairness” as to how the deceased wanted assets distributed might not move the court to disregard a will, negotiation and more formalized mediation are often effective in settling probate disputes. A good attorney realizes that many family members are not at their best after a loss and let grief and anger unearth old family disputes and rivalries. Working out a settlement is usually more effective than having the court decide for them, as there is usually a heavy emotional component that lawsuits do not address.

Where Mediation Can Help

Negotiated settlements can:

  • Avoid dispute among family members
  • Reach an amicable solution
  • Help all the heirs benefit
  • Safeguard the wealth
  • Get maximum benefit from the property
  • Resolve tax liabilities

The Gierach Law Firm is experienced in estate planning and in working with families with probate disputes. Not only are our attorneys able to help families understand probate law, but they are prepared to negotiate confidentiality among the participants. Virtually every family has “dirty laundry” that they do not want to be made public; by setting up an agreement between the disputing parties, the nature of the discussions can usually be kept out of the public record. The laws in most states limit how much information discussed in settlement meetings and mediation on probate issues can be disclosed.

Additional Benefits Of Negotiation

The promise of confidentiality can make family members more open when discussing eccentric or untoward behavior by the deceased. The net result may be improved family relations as every participant comes away with closure and a better understanding with other family members.

Mediation can even help family members come to a resolution about asset distribution. In a case where one sibling cared for a parent for several years, they might feel cheated by an equal settlement among all siblings, while the siblings might feel cheated if the caregiver received the entire estate. Working with a lawyer at The Gierach Law Firm, the heirs might agree to distribute the property differently or come to realize that what the parent wanted was both fair and an accurate reflection of their wishes.

Skillful mediation and probate disputes can result in a win-win for everyone when put in the skillful hands of the attorneys at The Gierach Law Firm. Contact us for ongoing legal advice from a skilled Naperville business attorney.

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