Many families in Tennessee feel relieved when they learn that their recently deceased loved one created an estate plan. However, when they begin to hear the details of the will, that relief may turn to suspicion. In some cases, the information included in a will is so far off base of what the family was expecting, that they begin to wonder whether something has gone wrong.
You may have recently found yourself in this type of ordeal. Perhaps your loved one had told you previously that he or she had created a will and let you in on some of the details. Now, the information in the will is completely different. On the other hand, maybe you anticipated your loved one to distribute assets fairly among the surviving family, but a near stranger ended up with everything. What can you do?
Assessing the situation
First, it is important to note that, even though a will is different than you anticipated, it does not necessarily mean that any wrongdoing has occurred. Your loved one may have simply changed his or her mind without telling anyone, or maybe some unresolved hard feelings resulted in the family ending up with little to nothing. Because this is a possibility, it is wise to assess the circumstances of the situation closely.
Second, if you do believe that some type of wrongdoing has occurred, you will need to determine whether you have legal standing to challenge the document in court. “Standing” means that you are an interested party associated with the estate and not just a random person with no connection. Typically, individuals with legal standing in this type of ordeal include:
- Heirs of the decedent who would have stood to inherit property if there had been no will
- Beneficiaries named in the current will
- Beneficiaries named in a previous version of the will whose names no longer appear in the new will
- Beneficiaries named in a previous version of the will who see a substantial cut in their bequests in the new version of the will
If you fall into one of the categories, you may have legal standing to contest the document.
Of course, legal standing is not where the situation ends. You also need to have legal grounds to contest the will, which could include:
- Claiming undue influence on the decedent at the time of writing the will
- Claiming that the will is not legally valid
- Claiming that your loved one did not have the mental capacity to create a new will
- Claiming that a newer version of the will than the one submitted to the court exists
Of course, if you plan to make any of these claims, you will need evidence to support your claim. However, if that evidence exists, you may have the chance to fight for your rightful inheritance.