Creating a last will is an act that protects you, your wishes and the people that you love the most. Although many people find it unpleasant to spend time considering their future death, estate planning can often provide the peace of mind that comes from knowing their loved ones will have support after they die, making it worth that temporary discomfort.
Sadly, after you take all the time and effort to create an estate plan that reflects on your wishes and the needs of the people who depend on you, it is possible for people in your family to challenge your wishes in court, potentially undermining your estate plan or convincing the courts to throw it out entirely.
If you understand the most common reasons that people report for challenging a last will or estate plan, you may be able to reduce those potential concerns for your own family in the future.
Dissatisfaction or shock with the contents of the will is common
Some people develop wildly unrealistic expectations about what they will receive in an estate. For example, if you have a child who thinks of themselves as your favorite, they might wrongfully assume that you will leave them more financial assets than you will leave for their siblings.
When they realize that you intend to split things evenly among your children, their frustration could eventually give rise to the challenge against your estate plan. Heirs and family members who experience a surprise or disappointment at the reading of a will are more likely to consider challenging it later.
That doesn’t mean you necessarily need to live up to the expectations of the people in your family. Instead, it is a convincing reason for you to focus on honesty and transparency regarding your intentions.
Concern about undue influence or testamentary capacity also provokes challenges
Sometimes, someone’s disappointment in the terms of a will take a different form. Instead of feeling upset and angry, the person might reach the baseless conclusion that someone else convinced you to use the terms you did in your last will.
Unhappy beneficiaries may accuse your spouse, children or caretakers of undue influence, meaning that another person altered your plans. They could also claim you made those changes or created the will while not in a mental state capable of legally doing so.
The later in life you create or make changes to an estate plan, the more potential there is for challenges based on lack of capacity or undue influence by other people such as your children or a new spouse.
Worries about fraud can also prompt people to challenge a will
Some people will stop at nothing to get their hands on the assets that belong to others. While it may be rare, estate or last will fraud can and does happen. Someone may create a last will that benefits them and fraudulently attempts to duplicate your signature for their own benefit.
When this occurs, there may be more than one last will allegedly related to your estate. The simplest way to avoid allegations of fraud for a valid last will include having it notarized and working with an attorney you and your family members trust to create the document.