Who pays the costs of probate litigation?

Not every instance of probate occurs without any issues. Sometimes, a party might contest the will or seek to invalidate the document. Contesting a will involves litigation, and the proceeding could come with high costs. Someone who never expected to contest or defend the will in Ohio courts may have legitimate concerns about legal expenses.

One possible outcome involves attorney fees being covered by the estate. Generally, the defense receives payments from the estate to cover litigation expenses. The party suing to contest the will may have his or her legal fees paid by the estate. However, frivolous or illegitimate challenges might not lead to the court requiring that the estate pay expenses. Those challenging the will may end up paying for their legal fees.

Another form of litigation that might occur could involve attempts to recover certain assets if they were lost due to malfeasance and waste. What if the executor took money from the asset to unlawfully pay personal debts? After suing to reclaim the funds, the litigant could ask the court to make the executor pay the legal fees. Also, a beneficiary of ill-gotten assets may face orders to pay legal fees.

Anyone planning on writing a will may find the above example cautionary. Choosing the best candidate for the executor of the estate becomes a critical part of estate planning. An unqualified or unethical executor could cause havoc during probate proceedings. Effective and thorough estate planning could involve narrowing down candidates to the best ones.

Parties considering bringing probate litigation forward should realize that outcomes may be uncertain. Discussing the merits of the case with an attorney may provide helpful insights before filing suit.