Coping with the loss of a loved one is difficult in the best of circumstances. However, the grieving process becomes more distressing when disputes arise among family members during the probate process. A number of factors could lead to a family member to raise concerns during probate. In some cases, the deceased has left no estate plan or the estate plan in question is incomplete or unclear. In other cases, the plan may be found invalid or family members may feel the executor did not competently fulfill his duties. Whatever the case, resolving disputes amicably tends to be in everyone’s best interests.
How can we get past disagreements during the probate process?
The best course for resolving disputes during probate will depend on the situation. Because every family is different, multiple factors must be considered in each case. We’ll look at three possible options now.
Clarify the law for all parties
Laws are complicated and consist of terms and provisions that the average person may not fully understand. Probate law is no exception. Often, disputes arise due to a lack of understanding or faulty assumptions about the probate process. Clarity is the key to resolving many disagreements.
In general, when a dispute arises, not all positions are valid. Begin there. Look at the arguments of each party and determine which individual’s position is valid and which individual may have a misunderstanding or misguided expectations. Take time to gently but clearly educate the confused party in order to ensure everyone is operating under correct assumptions.
Conduct private, attorney-led negotiations
When a legitimate dispute arises regarding the interpretation or dispensation of the decedent’s estate plan, it may become necessary to bring in legal counsel. Under these circumstances, each family member involved in the dispute hires an attorney who will advocate on his or her behalf with the goal of achieving a mutually acceptable resolution. Expert counsel ensures all parties are informed and that each party’s best interests are being considered.
Introduce a mediator into negotiations
In some contentious cases, negotiations prove ineffective. When dialogue reaches an impasse, many families turn to mediation to provide structure and neutrality. The goal of mediation is the same as negotiations: a mutually acceptable resolution. A mediator brings expertise and past experience, as well as objectivity, to the table to guide negotiations. If all parties are able to agree to this approach, it may still be possible to avoid costly, public litigation.
What if we can’t get past disagreements?
In rare cases, families are not capable of working out their differences in private negotiations. When that happens, legal action may become necessary. Even in these cases, the courts will work to ensure a mutually amicable settlement.
When dealing with a family dispute during probate, the first step is to discuss the case with an experienced probate attorney. Hiring an attorney licensed in the state where the probate procedure will take place ensures your position is valid and that all actions required by state laws are fulfilled correctly and promptly. Call the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lohman to discuss your probate concerns and questions today.