Houston Estate Litigation Lawyer

The death of a loved one is an emotionally vulnerable time for anyone. Unfortunately, it can also be the time when you are most vulnerable to deceit, fraud, and overreach by relatives, estate executors, and creditors who are not above exploiting the death of a human being (and the resulting grief of the survivors) for financial gain.

A person’s estate consists of all the money and property currently held in their name at death. That could include financial accounts (checking, savings, or brokerage accounts), homes, cars, personal effects, interests in a small business, or any other property. When a loved one dies, their estate passes in accordance with the instructions in their will or, of no will exists, with the state’s default inheritance laws.

Estate litigation in Houston frequently arises when family members challenge the validity of a Will or where an estate representative engages in dubious transactions with estate property. From investigating claims of undue influence to tracing missing assets, the experienced trust and estates attorneys of Romano & Sumner can help you navigate a complex probate case.

Overview of the Probate Process

After a person’s passing, any property that does not automatically transfer to another, such as through a trust or survivorship account, constitutes what was described above as the decedent’s estate. Probate courts exist to facilitate the distribution of that estate to the proper beneficiaries. This is done through probate or estate administration.

After a person passes away, any interested person can then file a will for probate or seek a determination of the heirs and have the Court appoint a personal representative. The personal representative has the authority to manage the estate property, pay debts and other claims, and, ultimately, distribute the assets to the beneficiaries. At any time during this process, estate litigation may ensue.

Common Reasons for Estate Litigation in Houston

Not all estate litigation involves disgruntled heirs or beneficiaries (but most do). Sometimes creditors assert priority rights to assets, testamentary documents conflict, or executors discover elder abuse and fraud. Probate challenges typically result from the following:

  • Will contests – Beneficiaries may challenge the overall validity of a will with claims of undue influence or parties, may assert that an executor’s interpretation of the will’s provisions is incorrect, or may submit an alternative will for probate.
  • Conflicting testamentary provisions – Not all wills are created equal. Whether a person found a fill in the blank Will on the internet or an attorney did a bad job, poorly drafted wills often spark estate litigation. Issues may include conflicting or vague provisions that probate judges must interpret under the Texas Estate Code.
  • Asset mismanagement – Executors, administrators, or family members may unlawfully distribute assets outside the will after the testator’s passing. Claims of fraud or breach of fiduciary duties often arise during probate litigation.
  • Unresolved creditor disputes – Wills do not override a person’s right to distribute his or her assets before their death. As such, lenders and creditors may claim entitlement to a testator’s already distributed assets, which beneficiaries could challenge.

Work with Knowledgeable Houston Estate Litigation Attorneys to Resolve Disputes

Probate challenges frequently exacerbate the grieving process after a loved one’s passing. If you find yourself needing to defend against unwarranted will contests or challenge an executor’s asset mismanagement, contact an experienced trust and estates litigator at Romano & Sumner for a free case analysis today.

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Romano & Sumner, PLLC

Romano & Sumner, PLLC
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