League City Probate Litigation Attorney
Helping Clients Resolve Complex Probate Disputes
The probate process occurs during a difficult time for any family. You have lost someone you love, and now you must go through the emotional process of dividing up his or her possessions. Sadly, facing this emotional task during a stressful time causes many families to have bitter disagreements during the probate process. Below are some of the most common disputes that can lead to probate litigation. To discuss your specific situation, speak with a League City probate litigation lawyer.
Interpretation of the Will
Even if a person prepares for death by executing a legally valid will, there can still be disagreements over the interpretation of that will. Even a common phrase such as “my children” can raise legal issues. Did the will-maker (“testator”) mean only biological children? What if he or she had adopted children or stepchildren? What if the testator was in the process of adopting a child at the time of the death? All of these children could potentially claim a share of the estate, but only if they can prove that they were intended to be included in the testator's definition of “my children.”
Appointment and Retention of the Executor
The executor (sometimes called the estate administrator) is the person who manages the estate. He or she must manage assets until they are transferred to ensure they do not lose value. (This is most common with real estate, but other assets might need to be protected as well.) The executor must also ensure that the estate is distributed in accordance with the testator’s wishes. If the person died without a will, there are default laws that determine which family members are entitled to his or her assets. These laws of intestacy must also be followed by the estate administrator. If the executor breaches fiduciary duties, commits fraud, or simply mismanages the estate, any potential beneficiary can petition the probate court to have another estate administrator appointed.
Common-Law Marriages and Children Born After the Death
Common-law marriages are recognized under Texas law. A person can prove that he or she is entitled to a spouse’s share of the estate by establishing that a common-law marriage existed between themself and the decedent. This requires evidence that the couple agreed to live as if they were married. It can be difficult to prove a marriage when an official ceremony never happened. The claimant must show evidence that the couple lived as spouses and held themselves out as such to the community. As you can imagine, other family members do not always take kindly to claims of a common-law marriage (especially the children of other relationships).
Another complicated situation arises when a biological child is born after a person dies. This can occur if a man’s wife is pregnant when he dies, or if a surrogate is carrying a woman’s biological child when she dies. Is this child considered a son or daughter for purposes of estate administration? Courts across the country have reached different answers to this question.
The Right Galveston County Probate Litigation Attorney for Texas Will Disputes
Attorney Rob Musemeche has extensive experience handling challenging probate cases. Call 281-475-4145 or contact us online to schedule your consultation with an experienced League City probate attorney.