Say that after an extended illness, the older of two brothers passes away. When he died, he was divorced, although he had been married three times. This older brother had two adult children at the time of his death, but had nothing to do with them. He always told his younger brother that when he died, the younger sibling would inherit the entire estate. However, when the older brother died, his attorney said the majority of his estate would go to his two children and his first wife. The younger brother received 15% of the estate. But since he was the one who helped his brother through his final illness, shouldn’t he get more?
The hometownlife.com article, “Contesting a will usually a no-win proposition,” says that while it may be unfair how the brother chose to divide his estate, it’s not an issue of fairness, but rather, it’s an issue of law.
Here are some examples of common issues in will contests:
Intimidation: if a beneficiary pressured the individual making his or her will and he or she wasn’t of clear mind when he or she made the will, it could create an issue and the will could be overturned.
Medication: if a person was heavily medicated when writing his or her will.
Capacity: if a person’s state of mind could be challenged, a will could be overturned.
In the earlier example of the two brothers, none of these issues other than questioning the will creator’s mental capacity were present. Just because someone tells you that you’re going to inherit their estate when they die, doesn’t mean they are legally obligated to do so. Also, just because you are the caretaker, does not mean you are legally entitled to the assets or that you will be named sole or majority beneficiary.
Contesting wills isn’t easy, can be very expensive and take a great toll on a family. However, there still may be circumstances when a will contest is the right thing to do. Before making a final decision, speak with an estate planning attorney who specializes in this area to get their opinion. If you decide to go forward, you’ll want a lawyer who is familiar with litigation procedures.
The main theme in our estate planning meetings is that it is your money and it is your plan. People have many different reasons why they chose to provide for some people and not others. Ultimately it is the decedent's choice barring any capacity and interference from outside sources.
One of the main goals of our law practice is to help families like yours plan for the safe, successful transfer of wealth to the next generation. Call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about your estate plan, where we can identify the best strategies for you and your family to ensure your legacy of love and financial security. Our office is located in Santa Ana, CA but we serve all of California including Irvine, Orange, Tustin, Newport Beach, and Anaheim.
Reference: hometownlife.com (January 15, 2017) “Contesting a will usually a no-win proposition”