A will settlement is a legal process by which will contests or disputes are resolved.  Will disputes involve disagreements regarding how property or money is distributed after the testator (the will creator) becomes deceased.  Thus, in a will settlement, these types of issues are resolved, usually according to the terms set out in the will itself.

Each will may be different from the next, and state laws regarding wills can also be different.  Thus, will settlements are typically handled on an individual, case-by-case basis.  If the person didn’t have a will in place upon their death, their estate will need to be handled through the state probate process. 

How is a Will Settlement Accomplished?

Will settlement usually begins with a filing through the court system.  This may involve a probate court which handles will contests or disputes.  The judge may review state laws in order to determine how the property should be distributed, and whether or not any persons have beneficiary rights

Will settlement can also occur privately between the estate administrator and the person with the complaint.  This may be more time-efficient and less costly than dealing with the state court system.   However, private negotiations and settlements will still typically require the assistance of a lawyer.  Even in such situations, the parties may still need to interact very frequently with a probate judge for intervention. 

For instance, suppose that one party feels that they should have inherited a car rather than a different person.  In this case, the administrator and the person would need to consult the will document to determine which rights, if any, the person has with regards to the property. 

What is Estate Planning?

Writing a will is generally part of a larger process known as estate planning.  This is where a person catalogues the entirety of their belongings and assets in preparation for distribution.  The will may address the property distributions along with other documents such as a trust document. 

Thus, will settlement may also require an examination of other estate documents that the person created during their lifetime.  For instance, some will distribution conflicts can arise if the property was already transferred through a trust account instead of through the will.  These types of conflicts generally require legal assistance in order to settle completely.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Will Settlement Issues?

Will settlement can often involved a wide range of legal issues and estate matters.  You may need to hire an estate lawyer for help settling any will contests that may arise.  Your attorney can assist in filing a claim with the court, and can also advise you on your rights during the process.  Most will settlement procedures can take several months to complete.