A will is a legal document that spells out how you want your assets distributed to loved ones after you have passed away. Granted, it may still have to pass through the probate court to ensure its validity, but nearly all wills make it through this process without issue — as it is the Court’s goal to adhere to your wishes as much as possible. That said, it’s not uncommon for someone to challenge a will.
But wait? How is that possible? If courts see a last will and testament as the voice of the person who wrote the will, then it shouldn’t be possible to challenge its contents or intent. Right? Well, not exactly.
Will challenges happen more often than you might think, and it’s typically because someone (a family member, beneficiary, etc.) who has a stake in what happens next with the estate doesn’t feel the will is valid. They’ll have to prove that with irrefutable evidence, but if successful, the will could be voided entirely or in part. As a result, the Court could be forced to make decisions regarding your assets according to state intestacy laws rather than what was previously in your will.
Let’s look at a few ways this might happen.
4 Reasons Someone Could Challenge a Will
1. Lack of testamentary capacity
The person who wishes to challenge a will could do so because you were allegedly not of sound mind when you signed the will. For example, they could show medical proof that you had Alzheimer’s disease or perhaps you were intoxicated. Anyone who wishes to craft a will must be of sound mind and body and understand the extent of what they are entering into legally.
2. Undue influence
It could be argued that you were pressured or manipulated into creating the will in the first place or that you were forced to include language in the will that could help someone illegally benefit from your estate. The undue influence argument can also go hand-in-hand with other dishonest and illegal practices, such as fraud or forgery, where someone misrepresents important information to secure an added benefit.
3. The will was never properly witnessed or signed
When a will is created, it must be signed and dated in front of at least two witnesses. Wills that do not follow these guidelines are often the easiest to challenge.
4. Previous wills were not destroyed
If you created a new will but never destroyed the previous will or included language in the new will that makes it clear that this new will replaces any previous wills, you open yourself up to someone being able to challenge a will. Requirements for voiding or updating a will vary from state to state, but most Courts generally go with the most recently signed and dated will available.
A will is one of the more important decisions you will ever make for both you and your loved ones. The attorneys at Christman | Daniell Attorneys, have valuable experience preparing wills for families and individuals. And depending upon your needs and circumstances, proper estate planning could involve much more than writing a will.
We help you put together an estate plan that goes beyond the last will and testament with a revocable trust, living will, health care directives, powers of attorney, or other documents. Our attorneys will help you to create legal instruments to distribute your assets according to your wishes, nominate a guardian for minor children, minimize family disputes, avoid probate and estate administration, and plan for incapacity.
Please call Christman | Daniell Attorneys, for your legal needs today!
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