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If there are two wills, which one counts? 

On Behalf of | Sep 2, 2021 | probate litigation |

Say your parent passes away, and you hypothetically find two wills. Maybe they give one to you directly, but then you find another one in the house when gathering assets. Maybe they have all of their documents in one place, and you merely find two copies when going through everything.

Much of the content in the two wills looks the same, but there are some key differences. Which one are you supposed to follow? Legally speaking, which one counts? 

Is one will valid and the other is not?

First off, ask if one of the wills is actually valid — it has been written, signed and filed properly — and the other is not. This could be a case where the second will is fraudulent, as sometimes happens when beneficiaries seek to increase their claim, but it could just be that your parent never got around to finalizing one of the wills. The one that is actually valid will be used. 

Is one will outdated?

Another potential reason for this situation is that your parent updated their will. Ideally, someone who updates a will with a new copy will then go on to destroy the former will. If they forgot to do so, however, you could get two documents with many of the same points and very different dates. The most recent will, if it’s valid, is the one that will be used. 

Navigating complex probate situations

Probate and estate administration can get complex for many reasons, and this is just one example of how it happens. Make sure you know exactly what rights you have and what legal steps you should take if there are questions about a will’s validity.