Many families share information about estate plans long before someone dies. Your parents, for example, may have openly explained to you and your siblings how they intended to distribute their property among you.
You have long known exactly what legacy your parents intended to leave behind. However, during the review of their last will, the terms that they set deviated substantially from what they told you they wanted. When it seems like the terms of the last will don’t match what your loved one told you their plans were, is there anything that you can do about it?
Look closely at family circumstances and at the document
When the terms of a last will or estate plan don’t align with someone’s lifelong statements about their intended legacy, you may be able to ask the probate court to intervene to protect the wishes of your deceased loved one. In order to challenge the last will or estate plan, you need to have grounds for doing so.
In some cases, like when a hospice nurse becomes the primary beneficiary of your parent’s estate, you might be able to bring a challenge based on undue influence. If someone manipulates or coerces someone into changing their last will, the legacy they leave behind gets undermined by that undue influence.
In some cases, you may notice issues with the document itself that might indicate fraud, meaning that someone forged the signature or tricked your loved ones into signing a document. It’s also possible that the last will on record was created after your loved one started to decline mentally, meaning that they no longer had testamentary capacity to sign a document. If any of these situations apply to your family circumstances, you may be able to challenge the last will in probate court.
What happens when you challenge a last will?
If you can convince the courts that there is something wrong with the document or the circumstances under which your loved one created it, they may choose to not recognize that document. They could instead reinstate a pre-existing last will or estate plan or apply state laws about how to distribute property when someone dies without a last will.
Knowing your loved one’s estate plans and your rights as a beneficiary will help you make good decisions during the administration of an estate.