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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.

Schedule a no-obligation consultation today to learn more about how we can assist you and what options you may have for managing contested probate in New Mexico. Call (505) 503-1637 or contact us online to schedule your appointment now.

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 New Mexico (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 Attorneys

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) 503-1637 or contact us online.

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