Have you ever heard of a will or trust being contested? These proceedings are actually rare; which is a good thing because contesting a will or trust can become extremely contentious and emotionally draining on all involved. Damages in these cases can be drastic and life changing. Not the least of which is the damage that is often done to familial relationships. Damage done by will or trust contests to a family sometimes lasts decades and, in some cases, is passed down from generation to generation with the breach never being mended.
In many cases, a will or trust contest begins when someone claims the document is defective. During these proceedings, it is the court’s job to determine if the document is sufficient and if it is sufficient, what terms are outlined by the document.
In other cases, the will or trust complies legally, but someone claims that the document does not present an accurate representation of the decedent’s wishes. This can be due to the decedent’s lack of capacity or an undue influence over the decedent by another individual. These cases are even more difficult. And there are many other reasons that can lead a group of grieving loved ones to the courtroom contesting a will or trust.
- Heirs who would typically inherit have been omitted.
- Heirs with equal/similar relationships with the decedent are treated drastically different.
- When a long-standing estate plan is changed drastically late in life.
- When the decedent was isolated from family members.
- When one family member has been provided with substantially more financial assistance during the decedent’s lifetime than the other family members.
- When children from a “previous” or “other” relationship exist.
- When particular documents contained in the estate plan have been improperly executed.
- When the documents included in the estate plan were prepared by the decedent themselves or by a family member on behalf of the decedent.
All of these situations that can lead to a contested will or contested trust have one thing in common. Regardless of the actual legality of the estate plan documents, someone feels as if they have been treated unfairly. One of the simplest and most effective methods of avoiding this type of problem is to include a short statement of intentions alongside instructions that could be misunderstood.
For instance, if one individual is awarded a lesser financial distribution, they will often assume this equates to less emotional attachment. This is often not the case. It can be helpful to include a short statement of intention to avoid this type of misinterpretation.
Individuals who wish to avoid the extreme stress and trauma on the part of their loved ones should take action now to avoid contested proceedings over estate planning documents at a later date. The most important action anyone can take to avoid these difficulties is to work with an experienced estate planning attorney and to be clear and concise about any potential issues that could come up amongst descendants when the estate plan becomes common knowledge. For assistance creating or updating an estate plan get in touch with one of the experienced Arizona estate planning attorneys at SHERIDAN LARSON, PLLC today.
Information Not Legal Advice. This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.