Certain circumstances make a will contest more likely.
Sometimes challenges are welcome.
It is fun to compete in activities like sporting events or to watch them on television or in person.
Other contests are not so pleasant.
According to a recent Vents Magazine article titled “5 Reasons A Law Will May Be Contested” a challenge to a last will and testament is an unpleasant contest.
So, why do people contest estate plans?
While some people like to argue over everything, there are several common reasons.
What are they?
Often sited as a reason for a challenge to a last will and testament, undue influence involves the claim that someone pressured the person who made the will to make certain bequests.
The potential beneficiary should be able to prove the person who made the last will made decisions he or she would not normally have elected without the influence of another individual who benefited from such decisions.
Although there may be no evidence of fraudulent action, a suspicion may be satisfactory for the court to accept and review the case.
If you think someone may have been manipulated or pressured, you may be able to contest the last will.
This is especially true if the maker of the last will had dementia or other cognitive issues.
Some people do not pressure others into adjusting their estate plans.
Others may simply forge signatures.
If you notice some documents have erasures or different signature styles, this may be an indication of fraud.
The documents should be examined to determine if there is cause to bring a challenge to the last will.
Witnesses are required to be present when a last will and testament is signed.
Although some states only require a single witness, most states demand that two be present and sign the last will in the presence of the testator (if male or testatrix, if female).
Beneficiaries of an estate plan are not allowed to serve as witnesses.
Although some states have instituted workarounds for witnesses who cannot be physically present during the signing due to COVID, witnesses are still required to make a last will valid.
Some names are fairly common.
Whether a family name has been passed to the next generation or the parents of some stranger had the same idea as your parents, sharing a name with someone else can complicate estate planning.
To avoid confusion, you should have the document properly signed and witnessed.
The best way to avoid a will contest is to work with an experienced estate planning attorney.
For a last will to be valid, the testator must be mentally competent.
This means he or she must be able to understand the concept and the content of the last will being signed.
He or she also must be able to identify those who will be beneficiaries of their assets.
Does this mean the person needs to have pristine mental health?
Some people have mild cognitive impairment or mood disorders and are still able to create and sign a last will with the requisite mental capacity.
In some cases, it can be helpful to get the opinion of a medical professional prior to the creation and signing of a last will if concern exists.
Because a contest to a last will can be long and expensive, taking proactive steps to ensure you have a valid estate plan is essential.
Reference: Vents Magazine (May 6, 2022) “5 Reasons A Law Will May Be Contested”