Whether you’re writing your will or serving as the executor for someone else’s estate, the last thing you want is to end up in probate litigation. But it can happen easily when the circumstances are right – or wrong.

Here are some of the common reasons that estates end up surrounded by legal scuffles:

  • The will wasn’t properly drafted. Maybe it was created using online software and didn’t follow the correct procedures for the state or maybe it has conflicting or vague terms that leave its intentions unclear.
  • There’s bad blood between the heirs. Sometimes, sibling rivalry leads to fights over a parent’s estate. Other times, step-parents find themselves at odds with a deceased spouse’s kids from a prior marriage.
  • There’s an unexpected heir. Nothing makes someone’s family more suspicious that a will was coerced or forged than a will that unexpectedly leaves a distant cousin, a neighbor of the deceased or a mistress a large sum.
  • The executor doesn’t communicate or acts unfairly. The heirs to an estate can get very angry if an executor won’t return their calls or seems to favor one heir over another.
  • The executor makes a serious mistake. Some executors try to take the easy way out and end up missing deadlines or try to skip some steps in the process. That can lead to problems with taxes and more — and the heirs may quickly get upset.
  • There are allegations of wrongdoing. If the executor seems to be engaged in “self-dealing” when it comes to the assets of the estate, that’s automatically going to lead to trouble.

Understanding what leads to probate litigation may help you avoid it. If it doesn’t, however, make sure that you waste no time speaking with an experienced advocate.