When a person dies, their estate will be subject to probate unless they titled the assets jointly or the assets automatically pass to beneficiaries pursuant to a contract. Probate property includes all property solely under the decedent’s name, even those in the will. A will does not prevent probate. In fact, validating a will is an essential part of the probate process. The probate process starts when the personal representative or estate administrator files a petition with the Texas probate court and the court admits the will to probate.
The estate administrator manages and maintains the estate during the interim. They also handle the distribution of the estate after the probate process. Probate litigation is a lawsuit an heir or beneficiary can pursue against the estate administrator. A beneficiary or heir of an estate can file a lawsuit against the estate administrator once the probate process begins. It does not matter whether the decedent appointed the estate administrator.
Why is probate litigation necessary?
Probate litigation aims for an heir or beneficiary to receive their rightful share of the estate. A testator, or person who dies with a will, often assigns a family member to be their estate administrator. Surviving family members have a stake in the estate and can act unscrupulously or deceptively to get more than what the decedent left behind for them. Here are some circumstances where probate litigation against an estate administrator is necessary:
- You believe the testator was under undue influence when they created or signed the will
- You believe fraud or forgery occurred during the execution of the will
- The estate administrator is commingling assets and misappropriating estate funds
- The estate administrator cannot locate or denies knowing the location of certain estate assets and property
- You want to reclaim the property that rightfully belongs to you
Basically, you want to challenge the appointment of the estate administrator and you move to have the court relieve them of their fiduciary duties. Probate litigation can also allow the heirs and beneficiaries to recover damages from the actions of the estate administrator.
The estate administrator has a fiduciary duty
A fiduciary duty means they have the legal obligation to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and heirs of the estate. They have a duty to manage the estate in good faith. As the designated beneficiary and legal heir, you have a right to fight for the proper management and distribution of the estate.