There are many families who struggle after the loss of a loved one. Dealing with grief is not an easy thing to do, and everyone will respond to the loss differently. At some point, the family needs to begin the process of moving on, and often that comes when they begin to carry out their loved one’s final wishes.
Unfortunately, in some situations, the estate documents left behind only create additional problems for families. They are unable to get the closure that they seek because of challenges to the estate, which result in disputes between beneficiaries in the will or trust. In this post, we discuss some of the most common reasons why estates end up in litigation.
Lack of capacity
The lack of mental capacity to make a will or trust is perhaps the most common reason why an estate is challenged. To understand how this works, let’s say you have a parent who is 80 years old or older. While they may seem to be in good health, you notice signs of confusion from time to time. These could be symptoms of a much more serious illness, something that prevents them from being able to understand the impact of the decisions that they are making.
These are extremely hard cases to prove, because it involves examining a person’s mental state at the time an estate plan was created. It will require detailed information to show that the individual was unable to think clearly about the choices available to them at that time.
Several wills in existence
Another common reason why an estate may be challenged is the existence of multiple wills. Some people may forget about a previous will, or go in to update a document and neglect to replace a will that they already have in place. If a beneficiary is left out of the subsequent wills, he or she may challenge the distribution of the estate. It will be necessary to determine which will or other estate planning documents will be the ones that should be submitted to probate.
In undue influence cases, someone is exerting control over the individual creating the estate plan. The person is hoping that the will that is created leaves all property to him or her, at the expense (and often shock) of other beneficiaries. These are also difficult cases, because it can be challenging to find the evidence necessary to establish the unhealthy relationship between the parties.
In the event that any of these scenarios seem to apply to your situation, you may wish to consult an experienced estate litigation attorney to fully understand your options. An attorney will provide you with detailed advice about the potential steps that you can take to challenge the estate plan that is believed to be in place.