A number of legal documents can make up an estate plan. However, the mere existence of these documents is not enough to constitute a satisfactory and efficient plan. In fact, any errors in the creation of these documents can render an entire estate plan invalid, thereby negating one’s wishes for his or her estate. This is why many individuals turn to legal professionals for assistance. However, when issues with an estate plan arise, individuals need to understand the law and how it applies to their set of circumstances.
One way these issues arise is when an individual’s testamentary capacity is drawn into question. In order for a will or trust to be legally valid, it must have been created by an individual who understood the gravity of the decisions made at the time, as well as the consequences of those decisions. Therefore, those who are under the influence of a substance or suffering from a mental illness like dementia may be deemed legally incapacitated for the purposes of creating an estate planning document. It is worth noting, however, that individuals are usually deemed competent to create a will or trust unless proved otherwise.
Other contests to an estate plan arise when fraud, forgery or undue influence come into play. These matters can be pretty self-explanatory, but they typically involve instances where another individual takes advantage of their power of the testator to secure an outcome that furthers their own interests.
Contests to wills and trusts can be hotly debated, and the stakes can be quite high. Therefore, those who believe that an estate plan was illegally created should consider discussing the matter with an experienced estate planning attorney who knows how to spot facts that may lend themselves to a showing of lack of capacity, fraud, forgery, coercion or undue influence.