Complex Estates and the Lengthy Probate Process

December 3, 2013

When a person’s estate is complex and includes business interests, investments and substantial wealth, the process of going through probate can be very complicated. It can take several months to sort out, especially when there are multiple parties affected by the estate plan. Because of how complex the probate process can be, it can be critical for heirs and estate representatives in California to work with an attorney to make sure their interests and the interests of the decedent are protected.

But the fact is that a number of cases are stretched out even longer when an estate plan is contested. When a will is challenged, formal proceedings are generally necessary to confirm whether a will is valid or not. And when the estate being discussed is substantial, people may have a lot to lose or gain during this process so it can end up being quite contentious.

For example, a battle over the will of an 86-year-old businessman has now stretched out into the second month since the man’s granddaughter filed a lawsuit alleging her grandfather was unduly influenced by her uncle to alter his will. The bitter courtroom dispute involves accusations of corporate greed, mental incapacity and compromised intentions.

Robert Cohen’s will had been amended shortly before his death last year. In the final version of the will, his granddaughter Samantha learned that her inheritance had been significantly decreased. She claims that her uncle took advantage of her grandfather’s mental decline in his final years to move his assets from family members to business and retail interests, benefitting her uncle.

However, her uncle argues that the granddaughter has ill motives for filing her lawsuit. Her father (and Cohen’s son-in-law) is a billionaire who had interests in taking over her grandfather’s business ventures and the uncle argues that that is the real reason she is challenging the validity of the will.

It is certainly unfortunate when the interests of a deceased person are debated and challenged in the courtroom. But it is often necessary because of the number of people affected by the terms of an especially substantial or complex estate plan. Legal representation can be very important in these situations in order to protect the interests of the involved and make the process a little easier on those struggling through what is likely a very difficult time.

Source: The Record, “Samantha Perelman testifies in inheritance trial,” Kibret Markos, Nov. 18, 2013

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