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Probate Litigation Attorney in San Antonio, Texas

Dealing with the legalities of a loved one’s estate after their passing can add an incredible amount of stress to an already difficult time. In Texas, when a person passes away, their estate typically goes through a process known as probate. This process, supervised by the court, involves validating their will (if one is left), gathering and assessing their assets, settling outstanding debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to rightful heirs. Unfortunately, it's not always smooth sailing, and disputes can arise leading to probate litigation.

The reality of probate litigation is often an intricate and prolonged process. If you’re facing litigation as the executor of the estate, or if you need to challenge a will or ruling, you’ll want the guidance of a probate litigation attorney who’s well-versed in the nuances of estate law, such as James P. Peterson Attorney at Law. He will work with you and fight to protect your rights as you pursue the proper course of action given your unique situation. Based in San Antonio, Texas, his law firm extends its services to clients throughout the Boerne and New Braunfels areas.

The Probate Process in Texas  

Let's first review what probate entails. When a person in Texas dies, their estate, unless otherwise specified in a living trust or similar document, must go through probate court. This legal process involves validating the deceased person's will, if one exists, and distributing their assets accordingly. The executor, named in the will, plays a pivotal role in this process. 

They're responsible for filing necessary documents with the probate court, collecting and evaluating the decedent's assets, notifying heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors, settling debts and taxes, and finally, distributing the remaining property to rightful inheritors. It's a complex process that requires careful attention to detail and the representation of a seasoned attorney like James P. Peterson.

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Common Causes of Probate Litigation  

While probate is generally intended to be a simple straightforward legal process, disputes can and do arise, often leading to probate litigation. These disputes can stem from a variety of issues and complexities that can further complicate the probate process. 

For instance, a beneficiary or interested party may contest the validity of the will in court if they believe it was prepared by undue influence, fraud, or improper execution. This type of legal challenge is known as a will contest, and it can prolong and entangle the probate process significantly. 

Litigation can also arise when an executor fails to fulfill their legal and financial responsibilities, which is referred to as a breach of fiduciary duty. Disagreements among beneficiaries regarding the distribution of assets can also lead to litigation, as each party seeks to protect their interests and ensure a fair distribution. 

When there is no will, sometimes the heirs cannot decide who will be the administrator. This becomes an expensive contest too

Additionally, creditors or individuals with valid claims against the estate may file lawsuits to recover debts owed to them. This adds another layer of complexity to the probate process as the estate's assets may need to be used to satisfy these outstanding obligations.

Will contests, breaches of fiduciary duty, disagreements over asset distribution, disagreements about who will be in charge, and lawsuits filed by creditors or individuals with valid claims are all reasons why probate litigation may occur. These complications can significantly extend the probate process and usually require intervention by the Judge to resolve. 

Intestate Succession in Texas  

Unfortunately, not everyone leaves behind a will, and when a person dies without a valid will in Texas, their estate goes through what's known as intestate succession. This court process determines how the deceased's assets will be distributed among their heirs based on the state's intestate succession laws. 

The distribution of assets largely depends on how the law applies to the deceased person's family structure. If the decedent is survived by a spouse and children, they typically inherit the estate. If there's no surviving spouse, the children stand to inherit the estate. If there are no surviving spouse or children, the estate passes to the decedent's parents, followed by siblings, and so forth, as outlined by the Texas Estates Code. Intestacy can sometimes lead to disputes among potential heirs about who will be in charge, valuation, distribution, and other issues resulting in probate litigation.

The Probate Litigation Process  

Probate litigation in Texas involves a series of steps. It begins with the filing of a lawsuit by the party initiating the litigation, such as an heir or creditor. This is followed by the discovery process in which both parties exchange relevant information and evidence.  

Next, parties may attempt to resolve their disputes through mediation or settlement negotiations, in an attempt to avoid a court battle. Pre-trial motions may be filed to resolve specific issues or seek dismissal of certain claims before the trial. If the case proceeds to trial, both parties present their arguments and evidence to a judge or jury. The court then makes a final decision and issues a judgment. If either party isn't satisfied with the judgment, they may appeal to a higher court. It's an involved process that requires skilled legal representation. 

Probate Litigation Attorney in
San Antonio, Texas

Understanding the probate process, intestate succession laws and the litigation process itself is crucial for anyone involved in such matters. James P. Peterson can provide valuable insights and representation throughout the process. Anyone seeking assistance with probate litigation should reach out to James P. Peterson Attorney at Law for a straightforward case evaluation. He's there to offer the reliable advocacy and assistance needed to make informed decisions during any overwhelming legal matter, including probate litigation.