When a person passes away with or without a will in the state of California, there is a good chance that his or her estate will have to go through a process called “probate.”
This process involves establishing the validity of a will, settling the estate’s debts, paying taxes, and transferring any residual property to beneficiaries. If there is a will, the beneficiaries will likely be specified – if there is not, California’s intestacy laws will apply. In either event, there is ample opportunity for disputes to arise during the probate process that could potentially result in significant litigation and animosity between family members.
The kinds of issues that may arise in a probate dispute include the following:
- Challenges to the authenticity of a will
- Arguing that a particular beneficiary improperly influenced the will-maker during his or her life
- Challenging the application of California’s intestacy laws
Whatever the dispute, it is highly advisable for the individuals involved to consider mediation before filing a lawsuit. Mediation confers significant advantages over litigation, some of which are discussed below.
Court proceedings are generally public record. As a result, litigating a probate dispute can bring private family matters directly into the public eye. The kinds of things that could potentially be disclosed in a probate proceeding include the value of assets, any illnesses that the decedent had, business practices, debts, the identity of beneficiaries, and other issues that a family may not want to make public. Mediation, on the other hand, will not expose private family matters to the public.
Mediation is fundamentally a collaborative process, meaning that, in most cases, all parties would like to avoid litigation. As a result, mediation tends to take significantly less time than litigating a probate dispute, resulting in less cost to the parties involved.
Preservation of Important Familial Relationships
Litigation tends to result in outcomes that either unquestionably favor one party or that neither party is satisfied with. In addition, in litigation, the parties tend to view each other as the “enemy” and do not communicate during the period of the dispute, often resulting in irreparable harm to their relationship. In mediation, however, the parties, while disagreeing, at least work together to attempt to find a resolution. For this reason, mediation tends to preserve familial relationships more often than litigation.
Contact a Southern California Trust and Estate Litigation Attorney Today to Discuss Your Case
If you are involved in a probate dispute and want to ensure that all of your legal options are explored, call attorney Byron Husted today.
While Mr. Husted is a skilled litigator and does not shy away from taking a dispute to court, he believes that it is in his client’s best interests to consider all alternative dispute resolution options prior to filing a lawsuit.