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Family dispute slows estate administration and probate process

When a beloved family member passes away, surviving loved ones in Georgia are often left wondering how to cope with their loss. Many families are able to come together to mourn, but a dispute over estate planning documents may mean that some find themselves facing each other in court rather than coming together to mourn. Unfortunately, the estate administration and probate process following the death of U.S. Senator Fred Thompson has been delayed as his wife and two sons from a previous marriage argue over the contents of his will.

A will filed with the court following the senator's 2015 death reportedly named his wife as the primary beneficiary and left his two sons from a previous marriage $50,000 each; however, the sons are accusing the woman of exerting undue influence over their father in the time leading up to his death. They argue that there were changes made to Senator Thompson's will when he did not have the mental capacity to make such changes. According to the sons, a $40,000 bill from the attorney's office that apparently prepared their father's estate planning document supports their claims, among other evidence.

Senator Thompson's widow disputes the claims, arguing that any changes made did not impact the two sons. The changes, according to her, only included Thompson's younger children. The adult sons are seeking documents they claim are related to the issues. Their step-mother claims, however, that the documents are both confidential and irrelevant and is asking a judge to deny the request.

Most people in Georgia who go through the estate planning process do so to ensure that their wishes are known and their family members are cared for when they are unable to do so themselves. In some cases, conflicts may arise that slow the estate administration and probate process. While there are some measures that can be taken to prevent such challenges -- including a frank discussion with impacted family members when the documents are created or altered -- some disputes may arise regardless of the measures in place. However, having an experienced professional help create appropriate documents can help decrease the chances of a successful challenge.

Source: tennessean.com, "Documents: No settlement in Fred Thompson estate dispute", Stacey Barchenger, Jan. 23, 2017

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