Many Torrance residents do the right thing and work to create a robust estate plan, including a will, to manage the distribution of their assets after death. While this is a crucial process to complete, it is not necessarily a guarantee against will contests and similar legal challenges. Let’s look at some of the more common reasons to challenge a will, with the understanding that the information is general in nature only and not intended as specific legal advice.
Sometimes questions arise as to whether the testator – that is, the person who drafted the will – had the mental capacity to do so. This could be a result of senility or other mental issues, for example, or perhaps because the testator’s mental capacity was affected by substance use. A will may be challenged if it can be shown that a testator did not understand what he or she was doing in creating the will; for example, if they did not realize what their assets were worth or who would benefit from the provisions in the will. A related challenge may arise if a vulnerable adult was coerced or manipulated into making certain provisions against their free will.
Testators often update their wills as their circumstances change, and when they do, outdated versions may be left behind. When these are not clearly dated or voided, there may be questions as to which version should be binding. Particularly when different versions favor different beneficiaries, litigation may be necessary in order to have a court rule on which version will trump the others.
Another typical scenario is when a testator lives in one state for part of the year and a different state at other times. Because states have different laws regarding what constitutes a valid will, a will may be valid in one of these states and not the other. Depending on where the testator passes away, beneficiaries may file challenges if they think it will be in their favor to have one particular state ruled as the state of residence.
There are numerous situations in which a will may be contested; some can be potentially avoided by the testator, others likely not. A legal professional can help both testators and beneficiaries when it comes to questions surrounding a will.