In many cases, estates only require small oversight. Often, succession proceedings are largely technical, with a judge ensuring that everything lines up with state requirements.
However, sometimes a person’s estate becomes embroiled in lengthy and expensive disputes. Below are three common ways succession litigation can occur.
1. Questions about the validity of the documents
Family members and beneficiaries might file a civil lawsuit if they suspect there is an issue with the will or other estate planning documents that have been created. Whether they suspect fraud or a caregiving family member exerting undue influence on the testator (the individual who created the document), they might challenge the estate plan in court.
The goal may be to have the court uphold a prior version of the estate plan or to treat the estate as though the individual died without documents on record, which would involve applying intestate succession rules to the assets in the estate.
2. Concerns about the actions of the executor
The individual tasked with administering a person’s estate plan is known as the executor. Their job is to pay off creditors, allocate assets, distribute property and more. They are required to act in good faith. Beneficiaries may seek to take legal action if they believe the executor is stealing property, money or mismanaging the assets of the estate.
3. Questions about the legality of the documents
Although people typically have control over what happens to their property when they die, their estate plans still need to comply with Louisiana law in order to be upheld.
For example, an individual is prohibited from entirely disinheriting their spouse in their will in the state of Louisiana. The widow of a recently deceased individual could initiate succession litigation upon learning of their disinheritance to invoke their statutory right to part of the estate under community property laws.
Understanding what happens during succession proceedings and common reasons for succession litigation can help mitigate possible future roadblocks for those thinking about creating estate plans.