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What if there are two different versions of my loved one's will?

When two different versions of a will exist, it can create confusion for the heirs and beneficiaries -- especially if the two versions set forth drastically different asset distribution plans. Not only does this create the potential for family in-fighting, but can also result in the wishes of the original creator of the will to not be adhered to.

Typically, the existence of a second will becomes apparent during the probate process. It could be that both of these wills are found by the executor, who presents them to the court in order for a decision. Or, a family member or attorney who was in possession of a second will might step forward during the probate process. As the court struggles to determine which will to adhere to, here are a few important questions to address:

  • Which will is the most recent? If one will is more recent than the other, then the court will favor the more recent version of the will.
  • Are both wills valid? If one will was handwritten and not properly executed, while the other will was properly executed and professionally drafted, the court might be prone to invalidate the casually created and improperly executed one.
  • Was the will drafted under duress? It's not uncommon for relatives or friends to pressure someone into drafting a new will, but in these cases, putting pressure on someone would mean that the will doesn't express the will planners true wishes. A will signed under duress like this would likely be thrown out.
  • Did the decedent possess all of his or her mental faculties? If it appears that the decedent was suffering from mental frailty when one of the wills was drafted, that will probably won't be considered valid.

If two wills have appeared in your loved one's probate proceedings, you'll want to closely examine both documents to determine whether you need to take action to defend the truest version of the will in court.

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