Albuquerque Contested Probate Lawyers
If you are the personal representative of an estate or are concerned about how an estate is being managed, you may have a contested probate case. In Albuquerque, and elsewhere, the estates of the recently deceased are primarily handled through an informal probate process. However, if there are disputes regarding the validity of the will or competing claims for limited estate resources, then the probate procedure moves to a “contested probate” situation.
Whether you are the administrator of an estate or someone who is concerned about a possible injustice related to how an estate is being handled, know that you may need outside help to resolve the situation. Contested probate can quickly devolve into a complicated scenario with lots of complicated legal questions. In many cases, the disputing sides will have to come to a mutually agreeable arrangement so that probate can be resolved and closed, allowing the estate to be distributed either according to a will or according to intestate rules.
The legal factors surrounding contested probate can be hazy. Court administrators are also legally forbidden from offering advice or legal guidance. What is often needed to proceed is an experienced Albuquerque contested probate lawyer familiar with matters of probate law and estate management. New Mexico Financial & Family Law has provided experienced and knowledgeable guidance in these matters to the Albuquerque community since 2005. Contact us for answers to your questions, to learn about your legal options, and to get the assistance you need for your case to seek the best outcome available.
Call (505) 503-1637 or contact us online now to schedule a risk-free, confidential case review and consultation.
What Happens When There Is Contested Probate in Albuquerque?
Cases that involve contested probate cannot be handled through the Bernalillo County Probate Court system. Instead, the case will be moved to the Second District Court of New Mexico, located at the Downtown Albuquerque Courthouse.
Before a contest can be resolved, the family allowance and personal property allowance must be paid. Then, all reasonable and necessary administrative costs for the estate must be paid. After this, all disputes and creditor claims must be addressed before probate can be closed and the estate managed as normal.
What Should I Do When There Is a Probate Contest in Albuquerque?
Contested probate can mean drastically different things depending on your relationship to the decedent’s estate.
Personal Representative of a Contested Probate Estate in Albuquerque
If you are the personal representative of the estate (sometimes called the administrator or executor), then you must be prepared to resolve all competing claims.
You may, for example, be required to verify the validity of a will or prove that it was not drafted as a result of undue influence. Or, you may agree that there is no valid form of the will and must then agree to undergo the intestate succession rules for distributing assets.
As administrator to the estate with a fiduciary obligation, you must ultimately make the choice that is in the best interests of the estate as a whole, including the interests of any named devisees (heirs). Working with an experienced contested probate lawyer in Albuquerque is often the only means to reach an agreement that allows you to resolve all disputes in an optimal way so that the remainder of estate matters can be handled.
Contesting a Will Before Probate or During the Probate Process
If you are someone who feels they legally have an obligation to contest the will either before or during a probate proceeding, it is extremely beneficial to have an experienced Albuquerque legal advocate at your side.
The conditions under which a will — in part or in entirety — can be contested are highly specific. You must be prepared to make arguments with a firm basis in statutory law or court case precedent. You must also be prepared to document any claims in order to back up your assertions.
In nearly all cases, the court itself will try to avoid intervening and making a ruling to the extent possible. Instead, the courts actively encourage the disputing party and the personal representative of the estate to come to an agreement.
New Mexico Financial & Family Law can assist you with all steps of the process. We have represented personal representatives in some cases and contesting claims in others (never both, for obvious legal and ethical reasons). You, therefore, gain the experience of perspective on how the law typically applies to such cases and what your best legal options are.
If you feel like a will is invalid or there is some other legally sound reason to contest probate, we are here for you. Reach out to us for a no-obligation, confidential consultation to get the process started.
Under What Circumstances Would a Will or Probate Case Be Contested in Albuquerque?
Probate of a will can be contested under certain grounds. In these cases, proceedings move from probate to district court.
The primary reason for someone to contest a will is that they feel the will is invalid. There may also be competing versions of a will, and no clear answer as to which may be the most valid one.
Aside from a will being contested, beneficiaries may also be in dispute. Or, there may be so many claims that the estate cannot possibly cover the costs of all of them.
If you are representing an estate and are worried about contested probate, or you are managing competing claims against an estate, New Mexico Financial & Family is here to provide attentive service and beneficial guidance. Knowledgeable in all matters of probate law, our contested probate attorneys have decades of experience assisting clients in and out of court. Whether you need help resolving a will contest issue or creditor claim, we work diligently to find the most favorable way of settling your probate case.
Reasons a Will Might Be Contested
Some individuals seeking a claim on an estate will attempt to invalidate an entire version of a will. They are able to do so through five basic legal means:
- Invalidity — A will may not be considered valid if it does not meet the minimum criteria: it must be a paper copy, completed by the testator or under their direction, and the testator must have the capacity to assent to the will’s terms. The will must also be signed by the testator, and it must be witnessed by at least two individuals.
- Duress — When a testator is compelled to sign a will because of coercion or threats, the will may be contested on the grounds that the document was created under duress.
- Fraud — Heirs may contest a will if they suspect the testator was the victim of intentional misrepresentation or fraud.
- Lack of capacity — For a will to be valid, the creator must have the mental capacity to create and sign the document.
- Undue Influence — Undue influence occurs when a person befriends another with the intention of altering their will or estate plan in their favor.
Preventing a Contested Will
The power to prevent contested probate often lies in the hands of the testator, or will creator. A poorly organized estate plan invites disaster. A will should be updated frequently to reflect major life events and changes. Additionally, wills should be as clear and comprehensive as possible. An ambiguous will that fails to name a personal representative or explain how real property should be distributed, will almost certainly lead to issues among heirs.
Depending on the facts, will contest matters can be difficult to prove or disprove. When you seek our counsel, we provide you with a candid case assessment and work tirelessly to protect your rights and advance your interests.
Dying Without a Will in Albuquerque (Intestate Succession)
When a person dies without a will in New Mexico, their estate is distributed in accordance with the state’s intestate succession laws. Unfortunately, this can lead to serious conflicts among personal heirs, especially if a surviving spouse and children exist. In some cases, multiple beneficiaries may lay claim to a single piece of property.
Personal Representative Responsibilities Can Be Involved During a Contested Probate
Unfortunately, while a will is undergoing probate, it is the responsibility of the personal representative of the estate to manage all claims upon the estate. This includes the following duties.
Giving Notice to Creditors and Claimants
The personal representative must provide notice of probate to all parties who requested a demand for notice. They must also notify all other possible creditors and claimants, directly and/or through the publication of a probate announcement.
Determining a Claim’s Validity
Another critical duty for the personal representative of the estate is that they must determine each claim’s validity and either allow or disallow the claim. Importantly, any creditor or claimant who issues a claim must have a response by the personal representative within 60 days as to whether the claim is allowed or disallowed. When a claim is disallowed, the creditor may then file a petition for allowance in the District Court. In response, the personal representative may have to provide evidence as to their reasons for disallowing the claim, and they may have to appear in hearings to manage the dispute.
Managing Competing Claims With Limited Estate Assets
In some cases, the assets held in an estate could be insufficient to cover all claims against it. In these cases, New Mexico law assigns priority to claims in the following order:
- Family Allowance and Personal Property Allowance — If eligible beneficiaries exist, then the personal representative must pay the $30,000 family allowance and $15,000 personal property allowance to the appropriate parties.
- Estate administration expenses and costs
- Reasonable funeral expenses of the decedent
- Debts and taxes with preference under federal law
- Reasonable medical and hospital expenses for the last illness or condition that affected the decedent prior to their death
- Debts and taxes with preference under other laws of New Mexico
- All other claims come last
Crucially, state law says that no claims in any one category can assume priority over another. This includes claims that are due, which are not able to assume priority over claims that are not yet due.
It may also be possible for creditors to seek a claim against assets that do not pass through probates, such as payable upon death accounts, joint tenancy property, transfer upon death deeds, and other holdings. Compensation from these assets can only be sought through a District Court proceeding.
New Mexico Financial & Family Law: Experienced Contested Probate Solicitors
Managing probate affairs can be stressful, time-consuming, and exhausting. The personal representative of an estate will have multiple responsibilities, and failure to take the right action could result in undesirable consequences.
Fortunately, you have experienced counsel available from contested probate attorneys near you. Let New Mexico Financial & Family Law assist you, and gain a clearer understanding of the steps needed to seek the optimal outcome for your situation.
Schedule your no-obligation consultation now when you call us at (505) 886-9606 or contact us online.