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Typical Probate Disputes and How to Avoid Them

Unfortunately, money has the potential to tear families apart and disputes over inheritance can open wounds that take years to heal. One of the many benefits of a good estate plan is that it makes these types of disputes less likely. By identifying the types of probate disputes that are most common and understanding the reasons they occur, Floridians can take specific steps during the estate planning process to proactively address them. This is certainly preferable to the broken relationships and financial waste that a protracted probate dispute can engender.

Even in estate plans that are built around a comprehensive will, several types of disputes can occur:

  • Challenges to the validity of a will — Florida's technical rules for the execution and formatting of a will are fairly straightforward. However, even a properly executed will can be challenged on the basis that the testator was incapacitated or under undue influence at the time of signing. This type of challenge often occurs when a testator executes a new will or makes secret changes shortly before death. Floridians can avoid this by being open with their families about their wills and including all their children and heirs in the planning process.
  • Disputes over the value of property — When a will simply directs that an estate be distributed to certain heirs in certain proportions, the value of individual items of property can become a significant issue during probate. This can be avoided by providing specific instructions for items of significant value or simply directing that the estate be liquidated rather than distributed in kind.
  • Disputes over specific items — Certain personal items may have special meaning to members of your family. When more than one heir expresses an interest in a particular item, it can create a problem. That is why it is wise for an estate plan to include an impartial system such as a lottery for resolving these disputes.

Drafting your estate plan with the help of a knowledgeable Florida attorney can help you anticipate and avoid common probate disputes.

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