Most of the time, probate largely focuses on reviewing someone’s last wishes and carrying them out after satisfying their obligations. However, sometimes, estate administration ends up triggering major family conflicts wherein siblings turn on one another or stepparents stop talking to stepchildren for the rest of their lives.
Every probate challenge arises because of unique circumstances. However, there are certain causes that are more common than others. After all, the probate courts will only consider an estate challenge when there is a viable reason for someone to question the documents. What are three of the most common reasons for estate litigation and will challenges?
1. Violations of state law
Someone can contest a will based on the claim that it denies them their statutory rights. Such challenges are almost always brought by spouses of the deceased, as state law grants them a right to a certain percentage of the estate. When an estate plan deviates from those rules, the surviving spouse may ask the probate courts to throw out the will or estate documents and uphold their right under the law.
2. Undo influence
Sometimes, people believe that an outside party influenced the testator to structure their documents in a certain way. For example, if a testator made changes in the last months of their life leaving everything to the child who moved in with them, it would be normal to worry that those changes were the result not of someone’s true intentions but instead of the new beneficiary pressuring them into making those changes.
3. Lack of testamentary capacity
Sometimes people wait too long to start estate planning, or they decide to make changes later in life when they don’t have the same cognitive capacity they had just a few years prior. When family members believe that someone created or altered their estate planning documents after showing signs of dementia or diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, they could challenge the validity of those documents by claiming that the older adult does not have the capacity to create legal documents.
Understanding the kinds of challenges that lead to estate litigation can benefit those who are serving as the representative of an estate or who are expecting to inherit one, as well as those who are preparing to create or adjust their estate planning documents.