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How are disputes over property ownership settled in probate?

On Behalf of | Jul 11, 2024 | Probate |

Executors bear the weight of many difficult responsibilities. And one of these is to take the lead in resolving disputed property claims on assets within the estate. It is not a simple or easy process; in fact, probate litigation is notoriously complex. But you should understand what’s ahead so you can know how to handle it. 

A disputed property claim can arise during probate due to different factors:  

  • Beneficiaries or heirs may disagree on how assets are distributed. 
  • Doubts might surface regarding the will’s validity, especially if there’s suspicion of undue influence or manipulation.  
  • Creditors could also stake their claim to the probate estate if your loved one has outstanding debts.  

These claims are typically settled through legal proceedings.  

The executor receives and investigates each claim 

The creditor or individual who wants to file a disputed property claim must submit their written claim to either you or the local probate court. This submission must happen within six months of the deceased’s passing to be valid, and include relevant documents, such as:  

  • Invoices 
  • Contracts 
  • Financial Records 
  • Appraisals 

To settle a disputed property you must first apply for authority from the probate court, here in Dayton that is the Montgomery County Probate Court. The court will hold a hearing and notify all parties involved. But if the will already allows the executor to settle claims, then this step is unnecessary.  

The executor can take the claim to probate court 

If an executor doubts the claim, they can agree in writing with the claimant to refer the issue to the probate court where the estate is being handled. From there, the case will go through several steps: 

  • The judge will refer the issue to three neutral people, also known as “referees.” 
  • The referees will hear the case and report their findings and decision back to the court. 
  • The probate court will then choose to accept the referees’ report or set it aside if they find issues with the findings. The court also has the power to replace original referees with others. 

At the end of the process, the court’s decision will be final and binding.  

The executor can seek legal guidance 

The probate process can be challenging. Disputes can escalate and emotions can run high. But at the end of the day, you simply want to do right by your deceased loved one. Make sure to reach out and get the support you need during these difficult moments. 

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