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Signs that it's time to contest the administration of an estate

When a loved one dies, the last thing you want to do is focus on money and possessions. Grieving the loss of a family member or spouse may even prevent you from handling practical matters, like bills and other financial concerns. However, over time, you may notice that something simply isn't right as far as the administration of the estate.

For many people, a carefully crafted estate plan is their final legacy, a way to give back to their loved ones, closest friends and even charities. When you believe that the person charged with handling the estate has failed to uphold the responsibilities of the position or if there's cause to worry about undue influence on the final estate plan, it may be time to consider contesting the estate.

Some people simply can't handle the responsibilities involved

The larger and more complex an estate is, the more overwhelming its administration can prove to be. For many people, estate administration can seem like a full-time job with very few benefits. That can leave those named as executor to delay performing critical duties or simply avoid finalizing the estate and distributing assets.

Perhaps the executor lives out of state and has yet to even attempt to address the pressing matters of resolving the estate. Maybe he or she has taken questionable steps, such as selling items from the estate to friends or family members for less than the fair market value. If an executor shows him- or herself to be either incapable or unethical, it may be time to ask the probate courts to step in and name a new executor or trustee.

Sometimes, late in life changes to an estate are problematic

When people live long and fulfilling lives, their final years may be plagued with issues like declining mental health and dementia. There are some people, including hospice or nursing care workers or late-in-life spouses who seek to take advantage of the aging for personal gain.

These people will develop a relationship with someone of significant financial means in the hope of receiving assets in the last will or estate. That can lead to children and other intended beneficiaries getting cut out of a last will.

Other times, when someone's mental faculties begin faltering, a family member may begin to pressure that person to change the will. If the individual exerting the pressure is in a position of authority, such as a primary caregiver or is the person with financial or medical power of attorney, that can lead to compromised decision-making on the part of the aging party.

In this situation, a claim of undue influence may assist other family members in having an older version of the estate plan or will upheld over the most recent, and likely improperly influenced, version.

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