Skip to Content

What are Estate Disputes and Why Do They Matter in Probate?

November 7, 2023 Estate & Trust Administration

An estate dispute is a disagreement, argument, or controversy about the money and other property owned by a person at the time of their death. Estate disputes can impact the probate process, causing delays, increased costs, and emotional strain on all parties involved. In North Carolina, these disputes can take various forms. We are going explore some common estate disputes and how they affect the probate process in North Carolina.

Will Contests

The first type of estate dispute is a will contest. Will contests can occur when someone challenges the validity of a will. Interestingly, will contests are sometimes referred to as a caveat in North Carolina. Common grounds for contesting a will include a lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, fraud, or the existence of a more recent will. A will contest can disrupt the probate process, leading to delays and legal expenses. For example, the court will need to determine the validity of the will before proceeding with estate administration.

Estate Disputes over Intestate Succession

The second type of estate dispute is focused on intestate succession. When a person dies without a valid will in North Carolina, their assets are distributed according to North Carolina’s intestate succession laws. The beneficiaries and potential heirs may not agree on the distribution. This can lead to an estate dispute and subsequent delays in settling the estate. Resolving this type of estate dispute may require court intervention to interpret the law and determine the rightful heirs.

Claims of Improper Asset Valuation

The next type of estate dispute is when there are claims of improper asset valuation. The valuation of assets is crucial for the proper distribution of the estate. Disputes may arise if beneficiaries or creditors disagree with the valuation determined by the executor or administrator. These disagreements can lead to litigation and delay the probate process as the court determines the accurate value of the assets in question.

Creditor Claims

Creditors have the right to make claims against the estate in order to collect outstanding debts owed by the person who died. Disputes may emerge if the executor or administrator disagrees with the validity or amount of a creditor’s claim. The court may need to evaluate and resolve these disputes, affecting the timeline and distribution of assets to beneficiaries.

Fiduciary Misconduct

Fiduciaries, such as executors or administrators, are entrusted with managing the estate’s affairs. Disputes can surface if beneficiaries suspect misconduct or mismanagement of estate assets. Allegations may include breaches of fiduciary duty, self-dealing, or mishandling of funds. These disputes can lead to legal action, removal of the fiduciary, or court supervision over the estate administration.

Disagreements Among Beneficiaries

When multiple beneficiaries are involved, disputes about the interpretation of the will’s provisions or the fair distribution of assets can occur. Sibling rivalries, complex family dynamics, and differing expectations can contribute to disagreements. Resolving these disputes may require mediation or court intervention, adding complexity and time to the probate process.

Claims of Lack of Proper Notice

The final type of estate dispute can occur when beneficiaries and potential heirs feel disenfranchised from the probate process. Beneficiaries and potential heirs have the right to receive proper notice of the probate proceedings. Failure to provide adequate notice can lead to an estate dispute, as parties may argue they were unaware of their rights or that they were improperly excluded from the process. These disputes can result in challenges to the final distribution of assets from the estate.

With the right approach and support, estate disputes can be resolved efficiently. We know from experience that seeking legal guidance and considering alternative resolution methods can help mitigate the impact of these battles, ensuring a smoother probate process and preserving family relationships during an already challenging time.

If you find yourself already entangled in an estate dispute, or if you fear that your North Carolina probate case could become contentious, don’t hesitate to call us at 336-790-5107. Our team is here to help you navigate these circumstances.

Disclaimer: The information above is provided for general information only and should not be considered legal advice. Our attorneys provide legal advice to our clients after talking about the specific circumstances of the client’s situation. Our law firm cannot give you legal advice unless we understand your situation by talking with you. Please contact our law office to receive specific information about your situation.

author avatar
Jeffrey L. Bloomfield Founding Attorney
Jeff is a highly dedicated and accomplished lawyer with a wealth of experience in various areas of law, particularly focusing on tax, estate planning, and estate administration. His expertise and genuine passion for charitable planning make him a sought-after advisor for families looking to structure their initiatives using trusts.

Contact Us