It’s not unusual for the loss of a loved one to bring up a lot of emotions, and family conflicts are common. While you always hope that probate will proceed without any complications, probate litigation happens more often than most people probably realize.
Quite often, this is due to questions about the validity of a will (especially if multiple copies are found that are very different), allegations of undue influence by a favored heir, questions about the testator’s mental capacity at the time the will was written and when there are allegations that an executor has breached their duty.
If you believe that you need to retain an attorney for a probate dispute, here are a few things you should know:
Don’t anticipate a contingency fee agreement.
Many personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means they only get paid if they win their case. That’s not how things usually work when you’re involved in a probate dispute.
Litigation is expensive, so you need to be prepared to ask detailed questions about a prospective attorney’s fee structure, including payment schedules. For some people, the cost of litigation may not be an issue, but others may need to consider whether the value of what they’re fighting for exceeds what they’ll pay in legal fees.
You need to act quickly to preserve your rights.
In Ohio, you have just three months from the time the will is filed with the probate court to challenge its validity. However, the faster you act, the better. You don’t want to give the executor or other heirs a change to dissipate the assets in the estate before you register your protest.
You should be willing to negotiate with the other parties.
Sometimes, quick action can also lead to a fairly quick settlement. The other family members or heirs involved may be willing to negotiate in order to preserve the peace or simply to keep their own inheritances from getting tangled up in court.
Agreeing to a compromise can save you a lot in legal fees and preserve more of the estate’s assets to be divided.
It’s never easy to take legal action against someone, especially over family matters – but it really is sometimes the only right call.