Contested Estates & Caveats

Compassionate Representation. Aggressive Advocacy. Effective Results.

Estate Issues Often Contested In Probate Courts:

Validity of a Will

When a will is presented for probate, it may be contested by any interested person.   Called a “caveator,” the individual contesting the will does not have to be an heir to the deceased.  Any person who will be injured by the probate of a will or who will benefit by its not being probated has an interest in the proceedings so as to provide the necessary standing to caveat.
A caveat to the probate of a will consists in filing written allegations that set forth the reasons why the will should not be probated. Numerous reasons or grounds of caveat may be urged by the contestant as to why the will, or any part of it, should not be probated.  Common objections include, but are not limited to, (1) absence of formalities required by Georgia law, (2) lack of proper attestation,  (3) lack of testamentary capacity of the deceased at the time of executing the will, (4) undue influence, (5) fraud, (6) mistake, and (7) revocation of the will.

Appointment of Administrator

If the heirs of a decedent who died without a will cannot reach a unanimous agreement as to who will administer the decedent’s estate, then the probate court will choose whoever will best serve the interests of the estate.  Although Georgia law lists an order of preference for certain individuals to be appointed, probate courts are not bound by the preference.  Interested parties may object to the appointment of an individual, regardless of preference, on grounds such as conflict-of-interest, criminal history, or any grounds that affect the best interests of the estate.

Year’s Support

An objection to a Petition for Year’s Support typically brings into question (1) whether the petitioner is in fact the spouse or child of the decedent, and (2) whether the amount requested is in excess of that to which the petitioner is entitled under the law.

Objections in the Georgia probate courts, called “caveats,” can be difficult to prosecute or defend against.  Georgia law prescribes timeframes and deadlines for certain caveats; if such caveats are not properly filed with the court before the deadline, the objection could be forever waived.  A caveat can slow an estate proceeding and require that the parties participate in the process of exchanging evidence, called discovery.  Discovery may include requesting and producing documents or depositions of witnesses.  Some caveats are intensely factual in nature and may require extensive evidence to prove, or defend against, the grounds of the objection.  Caveats may cause the necessity of other motions and proceedings to take place before the caveats reach a final hearing before the judge.

If you believe that an objection needs to be made in an estate proceeding, consult with our attorneys to discuss your rights and the procedure for properly asserting your objection.

Processes of a Contested Probate Case

When interested parties to an estate cannot agree upon one or more of the issues before the court, the parties must use the procedures set out by law and available in Georgia’s probate courts to resolve their disputes.  This procedure — called litigation — consists of determining the issues, collecting information and evidence, negotiating or mediating the issues, and ultimately may include a trial or a final hearing to have a judge or jury determine a resolution based upon evidence and testimony.

It is paramount to have knowledgeable counsel advise you and navigate your case through litigation in the probate court.

Our Approach

Even in the most contentious of estate proceedings, some issues may be resolved by agreement.  We work with our probate clients to determine a priority of issues, and then work to narrow the issues of the proceeding through aggressive litigation and sensible negotiations.  Ultimately, we encourage our clients to choose their battles.  Resources are better spent on the most important issues.  Throughout the case, we communicate with our clients about the costs/benefits of litigation to ensure we are using our resources most efficiently.

However, there are cases where, to protect our client’s bests interests, we must aggressively litigate the case to the very end.  Our experienced attorneys know how to present your case before a probate court or jury to obtain a favorable judgment.