This is the next post in a series discussing probate and estate administration in Hartford, Connecticut. The previous post addressed assets that pass to a beneficiary outside of the probate process. Certain types of assets, such as bank accounts or real estate, may not be considered part of a probate estate. Depending upon the type of asset, the deceased may have designated a beneficiary to whom the account or property may pass directly to the new owner. It is important to engage an experienced attorney to assist you in identifying and understanding which assets may or may not become part of a probate estate. This post will address potential challenges that may arise during an estate administration. If you or a loved one need assistance with estate matters, contact our office today to speak with a lawyer.
Heirs at law may challenge a decedent’s Will during a Hartford, Connecticut probate process
Losing a family member can be a difficult and emotional time for those left behind. This can be even more complicated when the person’s will seems unfair to one or more of their heirs at law, those who would inherit assets if the person died without a will. Someone who qualifies as an heir, usually children, grandchildren or other family members of the deceased, may decide to challenge the will during the probate process on certain grounds. For example, an heir may argue that the decedent’s will was made under duress or by “undue influence” of a third party. A potential beneficiary must show that the person was susceptible to influence and was in fact improperly influenced on or before signing a will. Lacking the appropriate mental capacity due to incapacitation or a mental disability may also be grounds for contesting the validity of a will. If an elderly person suffering from dementia, for instance, updates her will while incapacitated, it is possible that the probate court might invalidate the will. The person challenging the will must demonstrate that the deceased was not of sound mind and therefore not able to enter a binding legal will at the time of execution.
It is important to note that a properly executed will, even if seemingly unfair to potential beneficiaries, will likely be upheld by a Connecticut probate court. If the legal formalities have been followed, such as a valid signature in the presence of two disinterested witnesses, the court will presume that the document is valid. Challengers must provide evidence of undue influence or lack of capacity sufficient to successfully contest the will. A court’s decision will be based on the facts of a specific case. It is therefore important that Hartford residents retain experienced counsel to represent their interests during the process.
Other common challenges to a Will Administration in a Hartford, Connecticut probate case
In addition to a deceased’s heirs at law, certain other individuals or entities may contest distributions during the probate process. Common challengers include creditors of the deceased who claim the estate must pay an unpaid debt. While an executor makes every attempt to identify the creditors in advance, there may be an unknown credit card or personal loan agreement outstanding at the time of death. Similarly, when the executor submits the inventory of an estate to the court, it may be possible that certain assets were not properly identified or not located at all. An incomplete or inaccurate asset description may lead to third party challenges. For example, someone who claims an ownership right in real estate being incorrectly transferred through the probate process may challenge the transfer in court.
The probate process can seem daunting following the loss of a loved one. Engaging an experienced probate attorney can help you navigate the process and understand how to handle a will contest. Our firm has over 50 years of experience in estate administration in Hartford, Connecticut. Call us today to speak with a lawyer. We also service the areas of Wethersfield, New Britain, Rocky Hill, East and West Hartford, Bristol, Glastonbury, and Manchester, as well as the Middlesex County cities of Middletown and Cromwell.