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Facing the possibility of probate litigation

When Texas residents begin to think about their estate planning needs, they will likely start to hear a term they may not be familiar with: "probate." Probate courts are the courts that hear the cases having to do with the distribution of assets upon a person's death. For anyone who has a will as their main estate planning document, the estate going through the probate court process will be a necessary part of what occurs upon death.

However, while these types of cases necessarily have to go through probate court, what doesn't have to be necessary is probate litigation involving challenging a will or other probate disputes. Facing the possibility of probate litigation is something that most people want to avoid when their estate planning documents are submitted to the probate court.

But, as a recent article pointed out, sometimes legal challenges in probate court are necessary. For example, if a person's estate plan is well-known to all involved, but then in the last few months of life a full-time care nurse comes into the picture and all of the sudden the will is changed to leave everything to that person, a challenge to the validity of the changes to the will might be necessary. Did the nurse exert undue influence over the testator? Did the testator even have the capacity to make changes to the will? These are just some examples of why a challenge in probate court might be necessary in some cases.

In the end, communication with family members and friends can be the key to avoiding probate litigation. If an explanation for why things are as they are in the estate plan is given to everyone who stands to gain something from the estate, those involved might have less of a reason to pursue a court challenge.

Source: money.usnews.com, "Will Your Heirs End Up in Probate Court?," Maryalene LaPonsie, Jan. 27, 2017

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