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Understanding who qualifies as an interested party in probate litigation

On Behalf of | Nov 6, 2023 | PROBATE

In California, interested parties to a will can go to court to resolve disagreements over how the estate should distribute the deceased’s assets. The interested parties include a larger group than the named beneficiaries, and they can challenge the will’s validity, among other issues.

Probate litigation

The legal process called probate litigation involves conflicts and disputes related to distributing a deceased person’s assets and administrating their estate. Whenever disagreements arise regarding a will, the deceased person’s debts, or how to handle the deceased person’s property, interested parties may contest the will in probate court.

The purpose of the litigation is to seek clarity, resolution and legal remedies for these disputes or conflicts. The ability to pursue legal remedies through probate litigation ensures that the deceased person’s assets are handled according to their wishes as written in their will. If the will’s language is ambiguous, decisions rely on applicable state laws.

Defining interested parties

In the event of a will contest, an interested party is anyone with a direct financial or legal stake or interest in the outcome of the dispute. Interested parties may stand to gain or lose something depending on the outcome of the will contest. Examples of interested parties include:

  • The original beneficiaries
  • All other family members
  • Executors
  • Creditors
  • Charities
  • Disinherited family members

In the event of a will contest, the person contesting and the person defending a will must determine the list of interested parties. These individuals must receive notification and a chance to participate in the litigation if they desire. The legal definition of an interested party can vary by jurisdiction, and the court will typically provide the final word on who qualifies as an interested party in a contested will case.

Examples of challenges

Common will-related disputes include differing opinions on interpreting the will’s provisions, disagreements over claims against the estate, and misconduct allegations against administrators or executors.

Both sides can present arguments and evidence, and the case is decided based on the strength of these items. The court’s decision may affect the final distribution of assets contained in the will.

Probate litigation can be complex. However, it provides interested parties a means to seek legal remedies in disputes regarding wills and asset distribution, among other scenarios.