The Contested Probate: Should I Object?
In grieving the loss of a loved one, many are surprised to learn that wrapping up the deceased’s affairs is not as simple as they had assumed. If the deceased owned property in his or her name alone, a probate is necessary to pass the property legally to the heirs and beneficiaries under any last will and testatment. Oftentimes, disputes take place within the family over who should serve as personal representative, i.e. the individual responsible for managing the estate through the probate court. The question then becomes whether to file a formal objection with the probate court. Here a few key considerations:
- Is there a Will? If the deceased had a last will and testament, the probate court gives preference to the individual named therein as personal representative. Unless the contestant can show good cause, the court is going to follow the deceased’s wishes regarding who should serve as personal representative of the estate.
- Are there grounds for an objection? Merely distrusting or not liking the proposed personal representative is insufficient to block their appointment. The contestant must show good cause why the court should not appoint the personal representative named in the will or the individual with priority under the law to serve as personal representative. What is good cause? Under Oklahoma law, no one who is under the age of majority or who has been convicted of an infamous crime can serve as personal representative of a probate estate. Other grounds for objecting to the appointment of a personal representative include want of understanding, lack of integrity and drunkenness.
- Is objecting worth the time and cost? Even simple probate matters can take anywhere from 4 to 6 months. A contested probate lasts much, much longer. The result is significant attorneys’ fees and a delay in the heirs and beneficiaries receiving their inheritances.
The probate process is hard enough. Objecting to appointment of the personal representative only makes matters worse. However, in some instances, that is the only option to protect the assets of the estate and carry out the deceased’s wishes. If you are an heir or beneficiary of an estate, then the law provides that you are entitled to notice of the probate proceedings. In the event you feel something is wrong, consult with a knowledgeable Oklahoma probate attorney about the correct course of action.