Probate is notoriously energy and time-consuming. There are various reasons why, but one of the most common is because of family probate disputes.
Even the closest families can end up with disagreements. But it doesn’t need to end in a mess. The law is there to protect all parties. With the help of a Florida probate attorney, there are ways to resolve family probate disputes properly. Here’s how:
What Causes Family Probate Disputes?
Family probate disputes arise because of disagreements. Often these are due to an unequal distribution of an estate. Siblings can end up in fights because of this, feeling they’ve been unfairly treated by their parents and sometimes claiming foul play.
We’ve also seen parents make decisions over family heirlooms, without realizing the full emotional consequences.
And then there may be cases where intentional manipulation or fraud has occurred. From taking advantage of vulnerable elderly parents to shady mismanagement, there are times when legal action is required.
Whatever the reason, the best thing to do is to contact a Florida probate attorney.
Now, let’s look at how we can help:
Resolving Family Probate Disputes
Explain The Law
Probate is complicated. That’s why the courts oversee it and why lawyers are often required.
A dispute may arise because a family member simply doesn’t have the correct understanding of the probate process.
That’s why one of the best first steps is to ask, “Is this argument valid?”. If the answer is no, then explaining probate law in a respectful and understandable manner can help resolve family probate disputes.
Once it becomes clear that there are laws that guide what happens, the other person may see reality.
If you have any questions or need your circumstances analysed, contact a Florida estate planning attorney.
There are situations where the disputes are legitimate. These situations can be complex. If for example, there is a dispute over the interpretation of the Will or a lack of clear instructions, then an agreement may need to be made.
Often the best thing to do is to make private, attorney-led negotiations.
Each family member involved should hire a Florida probate attorney to represent their best interests. Their probate attorney will then provide expert advice and help resolve the family probate dispute in line with the law.
If negotiations aren’t working, then another possible solution to a family probate dispute is to try mediation.
Mediation is a probate dispute exercise, where a natural mediator tries to help both sides reach a settlement agreement.
This option adds structure to the negotiations. The goal is to reach a mutually agreeable resolution. The mediator, which can be a probate attorney, acts as a neutral party. They will use their expertise and experience to guide both parties towards an agreement.
However, it should be noted that meditation requires all parties to approach it in good faith. This is usually possible when family members realize the costs of ongoing litigation.
Mediation allows for compromises to occur, to put an end to the litigation and to let people get on with enjoying their inheritance.
- A mediator is not a judge. But a person who helps promote communication and steer the dispute towards a win-win solution.
- Mediation is usually less expensive and faster than probate litigation.
- Contact a Florida probate attorney to see if this is the right solution for your family.
Another solution is liquidating assets. For example, if there is a dispute over who should own the decedent’s home or car, then it may be a better idea to sell it off and share the funds.
This can be a difficult suggestion though when sentimentality is involved. But if it’s purely about the money, then it may help resolve family probate disputes.
Appoint an Independent Fiduciary
If as a family you’re uncomfortable with one person having the control of executing the estate and will, then you can name an independent fiduciary.
All the beneficiaries must agree to the appointment of the individual, which may be a Florida probate attorney.
This option can remove the idea of bias or favoritism and allow for an impartial and ‘fairer’ distribution of the estate.
Plan How to Divide Items
Family probate disputes can be about far more than expensive assets and real estate.
Sentimental household items, furniture and family photos can have just as much meaning.
Some families may be able to resolve disputes by taking turns over choosing items, doing a ‘lottery’, or simply having open communication about who wants what.
What If No Agreement Can Be Made?
If none of the above options are feasible or of any use, then it may be time to consider some form of legal action.
Litigation is fairly common, especially if one person is refusing to cooperate or if someone believes the will is invalid, or if they believe the personal representative needs to be removed.
One form of litigation is a will contest. A will contest can be made if you believe your inheritance rights are being violated.
With the help of a Florida probate attorney, you can file a petition to the probate court claiming, for example, the following reasons:
- Undue influence
Note that you have just 90 days after the notice of the administration to file a will contest.
You can read our guide on Will Contests here and are welcome to contact our Florida probate attorneys if you have any questions.
- Family probate disputes can be resolved without litigation through various strategies, including negotiations and mediation.
- Litigation may be required if a party is uncompromising or there has been fraud, mismanagement, coercion or undue influence involved in the creation or administration of the will.
- You should always contact a Florida estate planning attorney for expert legal advice.
Contact a Florida Probate Attorney
If you want to resolve a family probate dispute, you should contact a Florida probate attorney as soon as possible. Doing so may help you avoid a long and expensive probate process while protecting your inheritance rights.
Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. is U.S. News and World Reports Tier 1 law firm in Florida, specializing in Estate Planning & Probate since 1958. With award-winning experienced attorneys, they can help you resolve a family probate dispute.
Schedule a free consultation today to get started or to get any questions answered.