Most people would never dream of frivolously challenging a loved one’s estate. They know that probate litigation will reduce what everyone inherits and delay the process of distributing assets. Even if someone is unhappy with how their parent or other family member chose to divide their property, they may respect their wishes and want to see their documents upheld.
Of course, probate litigation exists for a reason. People have the ability to contest a will because the potential for abuse and fraud is so significant. Even though you may dread the idea of being the one to drag someone’s estate into probate court, that may be exactly what you need to do when you think there is something suspicious about the changes they made to their documents shortly before their death.
Why may family members have grounds to contest a will change shortly before someone died?
They may have been vulnerable to undue influence
An older adult who depends on their child or new spouse as a caregiver is in a very vulnerable position. From the food they eat and the pain medication they receive to the socialization that they can experience, their entire daily life may depend on the choices made by their caregiver.
Those taking care of older adults do sometimes pressure, coerce or lie to those older adults to manipulate them into changing their estate plans. If the late changes primarily benefit the person caring for your loved one, then you may have every reason to suspect that those changes were not truly voluntary.
They may have lacked the necessary legal capacity
You have to not only be an adult based on your age but also competent if you expect to create legally viable documents, such as a will. When people make estate planning changes late in life, they may have already started to experience the negative impact of cognitive decline.
Especially if the person making those updates to their documents has Alzheimer’s disease or another medical condition associated with dementia, family members may have grounds to challenge their estate plan based on the testator’s lack of capacity.
Recognizing when it may be time to initiate a will contest can help you protect your inheritance and more importantly the intended legacy your loved one wanted to leave behind when they died.