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When can family members challenge your estate plan in court?

On Behalf of | Jun 25, 2021 | Probate Avoidance |

If you have created a last will, that usually means you have plans for your personal legacy. Through careful estate planning practices, you can make sure that the people you love received specific assets. You might also set aside some property for charitable organizations.

All of your planning could end up being for nothing if a member of your immediate family decides to challenge your estate plan. Learning about the most common reasons that people bring challenges against last wills in probate court can help you prevent those issues from arising in your own estate.

Issues with the documents or no witnesses of the signing

If you set terms contrary to state law, people might challenge your estate and ask the court to apply state law to your property.

Even if the terms in your estate plan are appropriate, someone could challenge your wishes if you don’t have the documents signed in all the right places and your signing witnessed. Notarization and working with an attorney help prevent these issues.

The influence of someone else

Caregivers, new spouses and even children can pressure those creating estate plans to alter their wishes for the benefit of one individual. If your family members have reason to worry about undue influence, they could challenge the estate.

Suspicions of fraud

Estate planning fraud takes multiple different forms. It might look like someone tricking a testator into signing documents without understanding their content. It might involve someone forging a signature on fake paperwork. It might even involve someone trying to alter an authentic last will for their own benefit. When family members suspect manipulation or changes to the documents, they might challenge the estate plan in court.

Lack of testamentary capacity

If your family members believe that you experienced cognitive decline before you created your estate plan, that could be a reason for the courts to toss out your documents. Early planning can protect your legacy against such allegations.

The best way to protect yourself from unnecessary challenges to your estate involves creating bespoke documents tailored to your exact means and frequently revisiting your wishes to make sure they remain up to date. Being honest with your family about your plans, especially if you intend to disinherit someone or leave an uneven inheritance, can also help. Understanding what has undermined the last wishes of others can prevent such challenges from affecting your legacy.