Common Quarrels in Probate Proceedings: What you should know

Losing a relative and dealing with family conflict can be emotionally and financially draining. It is to forestall the possibility of internal squabbles after their passing that clients are advised to put in place a ‘quarrel-proof’ estate plan.

But, let’s say that this is no longer possible as your relative has passed and there is intra-family conflict over asset distribution.  What, then, should you know?

There are many scenarios that could lead to conflict in relation to the probate process and probate proceedings. Some common scenarios include:

  1. A will has surfaced but there is family suspicion regarding its authenticity

Often, the contents of wills shock many relatives. Omissions of their names or receipt of a smaller than expected share of assets leads many to surmise that a will is inauthentic. Sometimes, these suspicions are correct, other times, they are not. Ultimately, a court decides. If you strongly believe that a will is defective, and are an ‘interested person’, you may contest the admission of the will in probate court. Under Michigan law, interested persons generally includes heirs, devisees under will in question or previous wills and fiduciaries of the decedent’s estate or trust.

  1. A relative refuses to release estate assets or vacate estate property

Michigan law grants the personal representative the right and duty to take possession of all assets necessary for the administration of an estate. The personal representative may, but is not required to, allow persons with presumptive entitlements over tangible or real property to keep such property. However, once the personal representative has determined that taking possession is necessary to administer the estate, possession must be relinquished to the personal representative. The personal representative may seek a court order to enforce this right, and if the individual in wrongful possession disregards this order, they risk penalties including jail time. Overall, an informed negotiation between the personal representative and the relative in possession is a great way to avoid the family fracturing that a court order might initiate.

  1. Friction over expenditure from estate assets

Beneficiaries of an estate are, under Michigan law, entitled to an annual statement of the estate’s accounts and activities. Beneficiaries can turn to the court to enforce this right. Beneficiaries are also empowered to object to the accounting. Common grounds for objection include unreasonable or unnecessary expenses, failure to provide supporting documentation, and failure to account for the entirety of an accounting period. If you are the beneficiary of an estate and have cause to believe that there are discrepancies in estate accounting or have not received your annual statement of accounts, you should consider vindicating your rights to accurate and timely accounting.

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It is important in times of conflict to be on the right side of the law. You deserve to know your options and what a sound legal strategy should look like. The TGQ law firm has a team of attorneys who are probate experts and who can offer guidance that is specific to you and your needs. Contact our main office today to help you with probate proceedings and more.

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