Back To Basics: Preventing Will Contests

Every family has at least one horror story of a death in a family turning into a protracted legal tragedy well documented publicly by a probate court. An angry heir dissatisfied with their share of inheritance or a disinherited family member desperately trying to claim a stake of the predeceased’s estate contests the will and alleges a whole manner of improprieties in order to invalidate the will or one of the bequests made under it. A testator considering a future will contest can take steps to protect his or her estate from challengers and minimize the negative effects that a challenge can have.

Destroy All Previously Revoked Wills

A common occurrence in the probate court is for someone who was to inherit under an older version of a testator’s will to present the revoked copy as the testator’s true and most recent will. This can only happen though if the testator does not take proper steps to discard and make it apparent that an older will is now revoked. Writing ‘void’ or ‘revoked’ on each page of an older will or physically destroying the will shows everyone that the will is no longer valid.

Record The Execution Of The Will

Challenges to the validity of a will based on the testator’s lack of mental capacity are becoming more and more frequent as the average lifespan of the American citizen continues to rise. The later that a will is executed in a person’s life, the more likely that someone is to challenge the will based on the testator’s lack of mental capacity. A good counter to these accusations is to record the execution of the will. Not only does this show that the testator has his or her mental faculties intact, but it can also be used to show that all the formalities of required of a proper will execution have been observed.

Get Your Family Involved In Your Estate Planning

Many people choose to keep their will and estate plans secret from their children and others in their family. This can lead many to be surprised after a person passes to discover that they have been disinherited or that someone unexpected will be inheriting the bulk of the estate. Many times, upset presumed heirs may bring a challenge based on undue influence or fraud committed by the unexpected inheritor. This is especially true if the testator relied primarily on one person for their care, such as a close friend or relative. The more people involved in helping plan a person’s estate or are aware of a will’s contents, the less likely that there is to be undue influence or fraud.

See Related Posts:

Back To Basics: Witnesses and Your Will

Springing and Durable Powers of Attorney

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