If you have an estate plan, the validity of your will, trust, or other estate planning documents may someday be challenged. If you have a family member who recently passed away and the estate planning documents they left behind do not seem right for one reason or another, you may be wondering whether you can contest the validity of those documents. Will and trust contests are a useful topic for anyone to understand. If you’re making an estate plan, you can learn to make a plan that is likely to withstand any potential challenges. If you’re thinking about contesting a will or trust, you can make an honest assessment about whether it’s a good idea to proceed with a contest or not.
Some of the most common reasons people give for challenging the validity of a will or a trust are undue influence, lack of testamentary capacity, and fraud. The focus of trust or will contest proceedings is the intent of the person who made the estate planning documents. For this reason, it’s a good idea for those who are creating estate plans to state their intentions clearly. Including more detail in your estate plan takes more time, but it also leaves less room for interpretation. This is especially critical when there are things about your family situation or your estate plan that increase the risk of a contest.
If you are drafting your estate plan, you may wonder what the likelihood is that your will or trust will be contested. While the presence of any of the following risk factors does not mean that a contest is inevitable, these factors indicate situations where conflict could arise. The risk factors include estate plans that name caregivers as beneficiaries, especially where caregivers are treated favorably and are not family members, blended families, estate plans that omit one or more family members, estate plans drafted by people who are elderly or disabled, changes made to an estate plan shortly before the testator dies, and estate plans that leave significant resources to non-family devisees that family members are unfamiliar with.
In a will or trust contest, the evidence provided by the proponents of the will or trust and by those who seek to invalidate it will be information that speaks to the intent of the testator at the time they made the will or trust. This information can come from documents or from people who may have known the decedent’s intentions in making their estate plan. If you’re thinking about contesting a will or trust, consider what you might be able to offer up as evidence to support the conclusion that you are asking the court to make. Also, before challenging a will or a trust, consider what the potential effects of invalidating that will or trust could be. If there is no other version of a will or trust, the contents of the trust or estate will be distributed by intestate succession. If there was a previous version of the will or trust, that document might be deemed valid and the contents distributed according to it.
Whether you are making your estate plan or you are on one side of a will or trust contest, there are many things you must consider. Fortunately, your Wichita estate planning attorney J. Joseph Weber is here to assist you. Call us to reserve your appointment today at (316) 265-7802, or contact us online.