In spite of estate planning prior to an individual’s passing, A valid will may end up contested by the beneficiaries or family members. When this happens, the last will and testament of the deceased must make its way through the probate process. A judge will validate the will, and in some cases, appoint an executor to oversee the distribution of assets and payments to creditors and rightful beneficiaries.
There are some states where it is required to probate a will after an individual is deceased. In order to contest the will, there must be a legal reason to do so. Perceiving distributions as unfair or feelings of entitlement are not considered valid grounds. Should an individual have been thought to suffer from mental health or cognitive decline, a will may be contested on the grounds that the individual was not of sound mind or was under undue influence.
A last will and testament that has been drawn up by a lawyer and put on file has been created as a provable legal document. However, an updated version of a will that has not been registered may be contested against the instructions of an old will. It is up to the probate court to determine the validity of the newly discovered will that was presented to them.
To prevent a will from being contested, it needs to be legally drawn up, complete, and up to date with current assets and information. An estate plan can act as further clarification and validation to the will. A living trust can keep a person’s assets secure, and as long as it is legally valid, it does not need to go through the probate process.
It is difficult to know how friends or family will react to the death of someone close and to the distribution of that person’s assets and estate. A probate attorney can better explain the complexities of probate court and help navigate a settlement when a will is being contested.