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Probate troubles can pale compared to family litigation woes

We've often written on the topic of probate and how you might keep certain assets out of this legal process. In reality, probate isn't the green-eyed monster that wants to gobble up your hard-won wealth. In fact, in most cases, probate is simply a formal proceeding that ensures your estate is adjudicated according to both the laws of your state and the provisions you set forth in any estate planning documents.

Yes, there are reasons to avoid probate, and working with an estate planning lawyer can help you understand how and when you might want to use tools for doing so. Many people are so concerned with preparing their estate for probate that they overlook another important factor: whether the family might bring litigation regarding the estate.

Family fighting is one of the reasons probate gets such a dirty reputation -- it's often the family or heirs bringing additional legal action that holds up the process or makes it more expensive or stressful. That's not to say these legal options aren't there for a reason. If a professional caregiver is hired in the last few months of someone's life and suddenly the will and estate plans get an overhaul, heirs might have a reason to be suspicious. Legal action is one way families can help ensure the spirit of their loved one's wishes is adhered too.

That being said, heirs can also bring actions against each other for all types of reasons, and the time and expense of such actions can eat into the estate or make it impossible for your loved ones to move on in a positive manner. Depending on the options in your jurisdiction, you might be able to reduce the chance of family litigation via estate tools that limit will contests. An experienced attorney can help ensure your estate documents are as thorough and strong as possible.

Source: US News and World Report, "Will Your Heirs End Up in Probate Court?," Maryalene LaPonsie, Jan. 27, 2017

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