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Maumee Probate Litigation Blog

Challenging a will because of undue influence

When it comes time for one generation to pass on an estate to the next through a will, conflicts often arise over the validity of the document. This is particularly true when one beneficiary believes that another beneficiary used their influence on the will's creator to better their position. Many families have seen long-suffering tensions between siblings, parents, and other family members erupt after the reading of a will makes it clear that one party benefits unfairly from the will's terms.

Of course, without a strong legal strategy to reach a fair resolution, every party involved in this kind of conflict may lose out in the end, draining the resources they are fighting to control through legal expenses and mismanagement of valuable assets. If you believe that you have grounds to challenge a will because someone else used undue influence to steer the will's terms, make sure to use the legal tools and guidance around you to keep your rights and priorities secure before it is too late.

Estate battles: When sentimental items matter most

Your parents made an estate plan and it very clearly laid out what should be done with their financial assets. Bank accounts got divided. Investment portfolios got cashed out and split up. Real estate got sold so that you could split the money perfectly. If your parents' estate was worth $1.5 million, you and your two siblings both got just about $500,000.

After all, your parents knew that leaving you an unequal bequest could start an estate dispute. Children want things to be fair and equal. Your parents prioritized that and planned for it.

Celebrity will and estate mistakes to avoid

Even celebrities make estate planning mistakes, but there is something you can learn from them. By not making plans for your estate or not making the right plans, you could end up making your family go through probate or see your assets depleted by taxes.

You'd think that celebrities would have all their finances in order, but that's not always the case. Many die unexpectedly or younger than they thought they would, leaving behind a legacy but also a lack of financial planning.

Challenging a will: Determine if you have good grounds

There are several reasons for challenging a will. While the majority will pass through probate with no issues, around 1 percent of all wills will be contested. The problem with contesting a will is that the person who wrote the will is no longer alive. This makes it very hard for the courts to determine what their wishes would have been.

Courts usually stick closely to what the will says, but there are exceptions to every rule. For instance, if you can show that the will was recently changed before death, then there may be a reason to contest the will and good grounds to do so.Usually, successful challengers are spouses. The most successful grounds show that the person who wrote the will lacked testamentary capacity or was unduly influenced.

Dementia can lead to a loss of testamentary capacity

It is never easy to realize that your loved one isn't the person they used to be. Over time, the elderly do tend to lose some of their mental faculties. This can mean that they're not in a position to make important decisions about their lives. If they do, they could be easily influenced or not fully understand the implications of their actions.

This is a particular problem among people who have dementia. Early on, people with dementia are often still in their right minds and able to make decisions. They may occasionally show signs that they are losing touch with their surroundings, but they snap back to reality quickly and understand how their actions are impacting others.

A lack of capacity can invalidate a will or contract

You loved your parents very much, and when they passed away, you knew you'd be left with many of the assets they owned. What happened next was nothing you could have ever expected. Instead of receiving information about assets that would be distributed to you, you found that many of the assets were being given to the family's newest friend.

That friend was not someone you were comfortable with, and he got a little too close to your parents for comfort. You felt like there was something off with him, and now you think that he manipulated your parents into changing the will and estate plan. Due to undue influence and the fact that your parents struggled with dementia and the inability to make sound decisions, you want to challenge the changes to the estate. Can you?

How can you invalidate a will?

There are a number of circumstances under which you might want to challenge a will. While the majority of wills go through probate with no issues at all, there are times when family members and beneficiaries may have concerns about the decedent's will.

Since the will is designed to speak for a person who is no longer living, it's vital that it's upheld as it was intended. However, if a person was manipulated, threatened or otherwise forced to write or alter their will, there could be a reason to challenge it.

3 red flags that undue influence changed a will

Wills are there to protect a person's assets as well as to provide for heirs and beneficiaries. For many, the will gives them a chance to give orders and requests for the time following death.

Unfortunately, this legal document could be influenced by someone outside the family or intended heirs, causing trouble upon the elder's death. Here are three red flags to look for.

Do you understand testamentary capacity?

Challenging a will is easier said than done, as you need to have a reason to move forward with the process. In other words, people can't contest a will because they feel like they didn't receive what they deserve.

There are many grounds for contesting a will, with testamentary capacity often at the top of the list.

What might make a will challengeable?

When a person dies with a will, it generally controls the distribution of their estate. However, it only does this if it is valid. There are a variety of things that could potentially invalidate a will or some of its provisions. When these factors are present, they can be grounds for challenging a will. Will challenges, and how they are resolved, can have major impacts for families and other beneficiaries.

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