You may have recently learned that you were named as the executor of a loved one’s estate, and you are worried about the prospect of one of the will’s beneficiaries challenging the will in court. Alternately, you may be a beneficiary to the will who wants to bring a challenge to perceived injustices with how the executor is handling the process or how the will was made. Either way, you may be curious as to how the probate dispute process works, and how they are resolved.
Types of probate disputes
Oklahoma law allows for any interested party to contest a will during the probate process. The person who wants to challenge the will can hire an attorney or represent themselves, but they must file the contest within three months from when the executor submits the will to probate.
This contest can be based on a number of things. For example, sometimes interested beneficiaries exert undue influence over a vulnerable elderly family member in order to extort more bequests out of them. Other times the person who created the will did not have the adequate testamentary capacity, meaning that they created their will when they were not sound of mind or did not fully appreciate the full extent of what they were doing.
Sometimes there is nothing wrong with the will itself, but a beneficiary still wants to bring a challenge against the executor. This sometimes happens when the beneficiary perceives that the executor is violating their fiduciary duties, meaning that they are not fulfilling their duties as executor in the most efficient, fair and neutral manner possible, or that they are abusing their power to benefit themselves.
The executor of the state will have to stand in for the deceased and defend in any legal action against the estate – and against them personally. For example, if a beneficiary were to bring a challenge against the will, it would be the executor’s job to retain legal counsel and defend the will against the challenge.
If the lawsuit alleges that the executor breached their fiduciary duty, then the executor will have to retain counsel to defend themselves. In many cases, the executor can be reimbursed for their legal expenditures out of the estate.
Probate disputes can be very unpleasant, and often ruin family relationships forever. However, sometimes they are necessary in order to ensure that the deceased’s wishes are respected, and that the probate process functions as intended.