Executors typically try to honor the wishes of the decedent. The job involves closing the estate and distributing assets to beneficiaries and heirs. Still, someone may dispute or appeal the plan or a judge’s ruling concerning the will and estate plan. Common grounds exist for a party to dispute the will in probate court. They then may believe that the probate court did not correctly handle the case.
Grounds for an appeal
The details of each case are unique, but generally, valid grounds for contesting a will involve one of the following:
- Elder financial abuse: Preying on the old or mentally incapacitated is common, even for family members.
- Undue influence: Those caring for the elderly or infirm can exercise outsized power that subsequently unfairly benefits them over others. They can employ deceitful means like intoxicating the testator and forcing them to write or sign a will.
- Fraud: The accounting and estate administration do not add up or paint an incomplete picture. It could also be a fake will with a forged signature.
- Lack of testamentary intent: A personal note rapidly scribbled on a napkin is not a valid legal document.
Appeals are not retrials
The appeals process involves a judge or judges reviewing court records rather than retrying the case. Appeals judges look for misinterpretations of the law and procedural errors that lead to an erroneous outcome.
Not all rulings can be appealed
One side commonly feels that the probate judge dismissed their argument if they ruled in favor of the other side. Still, plaintiffs cannot always appeal probate court rulings. In cases involving probate appeals, the best results will come from working with a uniquely qualified attorney who understands the probate process here in Kentucky and has experience working on litigation and appeals cases.