When an estate must pass through probate, the parties involved often have great difficulty reconciling an estate plan and with the probate process. If an estate plan does not properly account for probate, or if the decedent did not plan for probate at all, it may significantly alter the distribution of the estate to the various beneficiaries, and may stretch the process out far longer than necessary.
In many ways, probate can seem like a divorce, in that it reaches into many areas that may not seem related, and can prove very difficult to resolve. In many instances, it is simply impossible to make all parties happy, and the longer a probate dispute persists, the greater the drain on the estate as a whole.
When probate disputes arise, it is often useful to involve a mediator to help facilitate civil, responsible negotiations between the affected parties and ensure that all the issues at hand receive proper attention. Without guidance, resolving a probate dispute may prove difficult and may ultimately deplete the resources of the estate so greatly that no single party receives nearly the division of property that he or she expects or deserves.
3 key elements in settling a probate dispute
When a mediator assists in a dispute, it is essential that the parties understand three important components of the process.
First, the parties involved in the dispute must have the legal right to participate, and must have full legal authority to agree to terms of a settlement. In much the same way that young children of a divorcing couple are not likely the parties who should decide their parent’s divorce terms, it is not useful to attempt to reach a settlement among parties who do not have the legal authority to accept or reject settlement terms.
Second, it is important that the parties enter into the process in good faith and with an open mind regarding solutions to the dispute. It is not useful or beneficial to attempt to reach fair settlement terms with parties who will not work toward mutually beneficial terms or are unwilling to sacrifice in order to reach a fair compromise.
Third, it is necessary to understand that these issues are not usually resolvable in a few short hours. The parties involved must set aside an appropriate amount of time to address all of the legal issues in a dispute, which are often more complicated than one or more parties expect. If all parties involved are not willing to put in the necessary time and patience to reach a fair settlement, the process can become a protracted legal nightmare for everyone involved.
Don’t wait to protect your rights
If you face a probate dispute, be sure to consider all the legal tools and guidance that you have available. An experienced estate and probate attorney can help you understand the nuances of the legal issues you must resolve and help you understand the likely outcomes of your probate dispute. As you work toward a fair resolution, be mindful to keep you rights and priorities secure through the strength of the law.