When a loved one passes away, it is often a very tragic time for the family. However, it can be even more upsetting when the person dies without a will, and there is a family dispute over the contents of the estate. While having a thorough Houston estate plan can minimize the risk of disputes, there is still the possibility that issues will arise. Below are some common estate problems and solutions.
Conflicts with the Estate Executor
A family dispute with an estate’s executor or administrator is a regular estate planning issue. When an executor is appointed to manage the estate after a person passes away, there can be a conflict if family members disagree with the executor’s choices. These disputes include if the family believes the executor was poorly chosen or if the executor is engaged in the mismanagement of the estate, including possible fraud. In these cases, it may be necessary to have the executor removed and replaced. Because it may be difficult to find an executor that family members are satisfied with, it is often useful to find a neutral outsider who does not stand to inherit any of the estate property.
Disputes over Property Distribution
There can also be a dispute if the estate property has been unfairly or inequitably distributed. This can include when the recently deceased intended for someone to receive certain assets but was unable to change their will to indicate this before their passing, or when an executor mishandles the property. If the property was unevenly or incorrectly distributed, an inheritor can sue. However, in order to sue, the person must be listed as one of the inheritors of the estate and have sufficient grounds for their claim. A person may be awarded damages if they can prove they experienced a monetary loss due to the mismanaged estate assets or may have the property redistributed in their favor.
If litigation does not seem like the correct path, mediation is another solution. Mediation, either between family members or between an executor and family, can be useful when there is a dispute about the estate plan or will. In many situations, mediation is a more amicable solution than litigation, and also provides confidentiality which is important for many families. In disputes between family members, there is also the possibility to resolve the problem in an even more informal setting than mediation. Parties may be able to end the issue by discussing what they each require for the dispute to be resolved. While this has the advantage of being quicker and cheaper than a lawsuit or mediation, it is unlikely to be successful for serious disputes.
Without a will or proper estate planning, disputes may easily arise. By consulting an experienced estate planning attorney and developing an estate plan, these future issues can be partially or entirely avoided.
Are You Looking to Solve a Houston Estate Plan Dispute?
If you or someone you know has Houston estate planning questions or concerns, contact the dedicated attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC. We can help you develop an estate plan to fit your needs or update your current estate plan to avoid common pitfalls. With years of experience, our attorneys will ensure your needs are being met while explaining any relevant changes to Texas law. Contact our office at 713-333-8900 to schedule a risk-consultation today.