Will You Have Standing To Sue Under Probate Law?

One of the biggest and earliest questions in a probate case is whether a plaintiff has standing. In American law, someone has standing if they have a legally-recognized right to ask a court to address a matter. A judge must resolve the issue of standing before allowing a suit to proceed.

Will you have standing under probate law? Take a look at the ways an attorney might examine the question.

Named Beneficiaries

Any individual or organization named in a will is likely to have sufficient standing to ask a probate court to examine a question. Notably, this doesn't mean the court has to humor your arguments. It merely means the court will allow you to present a case. The judge will ask you for a brief stating your concerns and any evidence you might have to support your claims, and then they'll rule on whether further consideration is warranted.

Surviving Spouses

Unsurprisingly, a surviving spouse usually has standing. They will have to present evidence of the marriage. Also, anyone contesting someone's position as a surviving spouse has the right to present evidence showing the marriage was ended or that it never was legally recognized. Once those slightly dramatic-sounding concerns are resolved, a judge will likely recognize a spouse's standing.

Direct Descendants

If there isn't an existing will, the most direct descendants available have standing. Generally, this means children, grandchildren, and so on in that order. Children of the decedent will have standing before grandchildren do unless there is a will stating otherwise. This means grandchildren usually only have the right to sue if there are no surviving children.

Siblings and Parents

In the absence of surviving direct descendants, the court starts to look further afield for blood relatives of the deceased. This progression works out through the branches of the family tree, starting with siblings and parents because they're the closest.

Imaginably, there are scenarios where the court may have to hear cases from fairly distant relatives if no one else has standing. Usually, these people don't come to court seeking standing. Instead, they're typically found by the executor or administrator.

Loco Parentis

Probate courts almost never hear standing claims outside of the previously named groups. There are some rare cases where someone might claim a loco parentis relationship with the deceased, meaning the decedent was functionally, but not biologically, a parent to them. However, most jurisdictions consider this relationship terminated when the dependant becomes an adult.

For more information, contact a probate law service in your area.