Minnesota residents who are involved in court battles over an inheritance need to remember that certain rules apply to probate matters, just as they do in any other court proceeding. Courts expect that those who appear before the tribunal will speak truthfully and will not attempt to hide or destroy evidence, even if that evidence is not helpful to a person's case.
When people, either through malice or just in a fit of passion over their cases, choose to ignore these rules, courts have broad authority to impose monetary penalties, or "sanctions," against the offending parties. While there are limits, in theory, these sanctions can cost thousands, if not millions, of dollars, such that a person who otherwise "wins" a probate dispute may wind up no better off than if he or she had lost.
As a case in point, the daughter of the late model Anna Nicole Smith still stands a chance at receiving $44 million, even though her mother's estate never received anything from the estate of the model's late husband. When the model's husband died in 1994, the man's son successfully prevented Anna Nicole Smith from receiving any of the man's fortune, arguing that his father never intended to allow Anna Nicole Smith to inherit any of his wealth.
Although both Anna Nicole Smith and her late husband's son are now dead, a court in another state has recently determined that the son committed several inappropriate and "bad faith" actions during the estate proceedings. These actions included disposing of important documents and lying under oath.
How much money the daughter of Anna Nicole Smith will receive because of this bad conduct remains to be determined, but some say she could receive $44 million. If anything, this case shows that probate disputes can be very ugly. For those in Minnesota going through a probate court battle, it may therefore prove very helpful to have a competent and experienced probate litigation attorney at their side for assistance and advice.
Source: The Houston Chronicle, "In last ditch attempt, Anna Nicole Smith's daughter may still inherit millions," Heather Alexander, April 3, 2014