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Family battle enters estate administration & probate stage

Some of the most contentious battles in a Georgia court can concern people feuding over the ownership of a decedent's estate. Even though the deceased person may have made out a will, that does not stop disgruntled relatives and others who were passed over from going into court and claiming undue influence or making challenge based on other legal doctrines. These disputes are raised and resolved during the estate administration & probate stage of a decedent's estate.

An estate battle that is garnering national attention is occurring in a neighboring state where a woman's death has triggered a vicious battle of opposing claims. The two children of a wealthy heiress who died in April have petitioned the state probate court to strike down the woman's will because they say that she was incompetent at the time that she wrote it. They claim that her lawyer and accountant took advantage of her incompetency to have make a will designating her grandson as her heir.

The other side in the dispute claims that the woman truly wanted to cut her son and daughter out and that she clearly favored her grandson. A lawyer for the estate announced that their only goal was to fulfill the wishes of the deceased woman. They claim that the woman paid meticulous attention to creating her estate in the manner that she desired.

Claims of incompetency and undue influence carry a heavy burden. The initial presumption is in favor of the legitimacy of a will and other estate planning documents. The two children, now in their 60s, say that if the will and trust are struck down that they will put the funds mostly to charitable causes.

The children have prevented the burial of their mother's body until an autopsy is performed and they get access to her medical records. Alternatively, they request removal and examination of her brain. At this point, however, no smoking guns have appeared that would justify revocation of the will and other estate planning documents. This general estate administration & probate procedure is used also in the Georgia courts to decide a will contest.

Source:, "The family feud over Joy Culverhouse's estate continues and that's not that unusual", Susan Taylor Martin, July 29, 2016

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