The terms that someone adds to their will or broader estate plan can provide support for their dependent family members and allow for the transfer of their assets to others when they die. Most people are eager to uphold someone’s stated wishes during estate administration and will feel grateful for the consideration of the testator.
However, some people review estate planning paperwork with shock and dissatisfaction. They wonder why specific people won’t receive an inheritance or will only receive a tiny fraction of an estate. Occasionally, those who are unhappy with or are concerned about the terms included in an estate plan will contest or challenge a will. These are the two main reasons that people choose to contest a will in probate court.
1. They want to preserve someone’s legacy
People are often well aware of what legacy their loved ones wanted to leave when they died. Perhaps they were very clear about wanting to donate to a non-profit or to split certain assets evenly among specific beneficiaries.
People who recognize that the terms of an estate plan very blatantly deviate from the known preferences of the testator may choose to challenge the will in the hopes of upholding someone’s true intentions for their legacy. In scenarios where someone suspects that undue influence, fraud or a lack of testamentary capacity has led to inappropriate paperwork, people may want to challenge those documents so that they can fulfill someone’s true wishes.
2. They want to protect their rights
As the child or spouse of someone who recently died, an individual may have certain rights. When an estate plan seems to infringe on those rights, potential beneficiaries can raise a challenge to protect their personal rights. For example, spouses disinherited by a will could request that the courts discount certain estate planning paperwork so that they can assert their rights.
In some cases, a will contest in probate court would both protect the rights of prospective beneficiaries and better uphold the true wishes of the decedent. The grounds for challenging an estate plan include scenarios where the terms are illegal, as well as cases where there are questions about undue influence, fraud or the testamentary capacity of the person drafting the documents.
Exploring whether a situation justifies probate litigation with the assistance of a legal professional can help people protect themselves and stand up for the wishes of someone they love.